The baseball world is very familiar with the exports of the Bad News Bears, a bumbling fictional team who just can’t seem to do much of anything right. This year, in reality, a very non-fictional Kyle Barrett, although being similarly named, somewhat thanks to a .342/.405/.474 month of July, has become the polar (pun intended) opposite and is proving himself to be one of the best players in the Marlins’ minor league system this season.
Andrew Kyle Barrett, who just celebrated his 23rd birthday on August 4th, is the Marlins’ 2015 fifth rounder out of Kentucky. Prior to his collegiate days, Barrett attended high school in Douglasville, GA. After playing basketball as a freshman, he hit .485 as a junior and as a senior he hit .564 with a combined six homers and collected two combined All-America team honors. The accolades kept coming upon his graduation to the Wildcats in 2013 when he lead his entire team in batting average (.349) and OBP (.407) in his freshman season on a team which also held current Marlins’ MiLBer J.T. Riddle. His BA also placed 12th in the entire SEC, a league which held the likes of top prospects Alex Bregman, Hunter Renfroe, and Tony Kemp. After finishing that season reaching base in 19 straight games (which attributed to him reaching safely in a total of 34 of his 38 games), Barrett earned a spot playing alongside the aforementioned Bregman on the All-SEC Freshman Team. In 2014, Barrett ran his total of games reached safely in to 35 as he reached in 16 straight, all via a hit to open his sophomore year. On the whole that year, he took a bit of a step back numbers wise as the sophomore slump bit him and spelled out a .253/.354/.312 slash line. However, Barrett came back with a vengeance in summer league play in the Cape Cod league, hitting .317/.354/.358 with the Harwich Mariners. His BA ranked third on his team as did his 10 stolen bases. As the 11th best for-average bat in the league, he earned a spot in the Cape’s All-Star Game. Barrett rode that momentum in to his junior year where he enjoyed his best season to date, placing second on the team in BA (.354), third in OBP (.394) and third in slugging (.443). He showed off his blazing speed on the regular, stretching would-be singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He also added seven steals in 11 attempts. His BA ranked second on the Wildcats, his OBP and SLG both third.
With a career .324/.386/.391 slash line in college along with a 57% stolen base success rate, great defense, and plus speed on top of two great seasons in the summer leagues, Barrett attracted attention as early as the 10th round of the 2015 draft. He fell to the 15th round where the Marlins drafted him 446th overall. Minus four games with the Muckdogs at the end of 2015, Barrett is getting his first taste of pro ball this year with the Grasshoppers. And my, what a tasty morsel it is. After getting his feet wet with a .182/.243/.212 April and a .260/.309/.260 May, Barrett exploded onto the scene in June when he hit .337/.352/.372. Things only got better for the stout left hander in July when he hit .342/.405/.474. Over that two month span he reached in 32 of his 45 games via a hit and in 36 of 45 overall, spelling a .377 OBP mostly out of the lead-off spot. Over that span, his yearly BA rose from .230 to .302. He also added seven total steals in nine attempts.
Standing at a petite 5’11” and weighing just 185, Barrett cuts down on his strike zone by getting low in his straight away stance. His light load, good bat speed and slappy singles bat have allowed him to enjoy a more than decent contact rate and an ability to still barrell up balls despite committing to a swing late into the pitch, a great sign for a future leadoff man. On the contrary, Barrett is a bit too of an aggressive bat early in the count as he looks to barrell up fastballs which often leads to him failing to maintain his soft hands and instead trying to do too much and lose his balance. This is what has led to his heightened K/BB for all of his career so far. If he hopes to succeed as a top of the order man, Barrett will need to be a bit more patient early in ABs and learn to go with breaking pitches as well as he does on heaters. If he can do that, the level-headed speedy baserunner and overall heady player who isn’t afraid to take advantage of what the defense gives him as he is always a candidate to squeeze a bunt down successfully for a hit if the infield plays back and reach thanks to his plus jets, most definitely has a future as a top of the order catalyst.
On the common occasion that Barrett, who once ran a 6.77 60 yard dash, reaches base, he is a threat to steal every time. He utilizes that speed in the outfield well by making good straight reads and covering all the ground necessary and then some. He finishes off his five-tool skill set by possessing a plus arm which can make on-line throws from all three positions, though his best suited position is probably center.
With a great makeup already in a very immature career, if Barrett, who just turned 23, can receive some nurturing regarding his approach early in counts, he has more than a potential future as a fire starter in the upper levels of the minors and further. I will be watching him closely as his career progresses.
Angels In the Outfield. A film based around a story about beings with other-worldly powers helping a baseball team reach a coveted title. By what he is accomplishing this season, including what he did this month, hitting .376/.398/.538, Grasshoppers’ outfielder/infielder Angel Reyes could be that story come to life.
Angel David Reyes was born on May 6, 1995 in Barcelona, Venezuela. His American baseball career began when he was inked by the Marlins as an 18-year-old in 2012 as an international signee. After two seasons in the Dominican Summer Leagues and one and a half in the Gulf Coast League in which he hit a collective .218/.305/.314, Reyes took his talents to short season Batavia as a 20-year-old. That’s where his coming out party began. For that year’s Muckdogs, Reyes averaged .265, got on base at a .311 clip and was second on the team in slugging at .470. Despite only playing in 25 games, he was also third on the team in triples and sixth on the squad in doubles and RBIs. That success followed him to his first year of full season ball this year. In the most extensive action he has seen in his career in a single season already, Reyes is playing some of the best ball of his career, currently placing third on the single A Grasshoppers in slugging (among those with at least 50 games played) at .402 (a figure which also ranks among the top 30 in the entire Sally league), third in OBP with a .339 mark and second in BA at .287. As for his countable stats, Reyes leads the Hoppers with 44 RBIs (a tote which also ranks among the top 25 in the Sally), is third in homers with five, and is tied for the lead in doubles with 19 (another top 30 total in the Sally). Though it has come at the expense of a 68-26 K/BB, Reyes has shown and continues to show the preliminary ability to become a serious threat as a pure power hitting first baseman.
Reyes is a sight to behold as he awaits pitches. Standing from a truly unique stance, he spreads his legs from the front of the box to the back and places all of his weight on his back leg and his front toe turned up and in. Upon engaging his swing, he transfers his weight to his front foot well by snapping quick hips through the zone. This year, vast improvements to his bat speed have been the biggest catalyst for his recent success and made anything on the inner half of the plate a pitch he can do something with. He has also shown strength beyond his size and a possible glimpse into the future by fighting off pitches on his hands and becoming a very hard guy to jam, a fantastic initial sign for the type of hitter he hopes to become. At just 21, there is definitely some more power left in him as he grows into his body which right now isn’t very striking (just 6’0″, 175). Should he bulk up and maintain the ability to disallow opposing pitchers to get in on his hands for easy outs, his pure pull hit power could make him an elite offensive threat. Areas in which Reyes needs to improve include in his hands. Far too often is he unable to maintain looseness in them leading to him committing to pitches too early, especially on the outer half due to immature plate vision. Pitchers who get ahead in the count early to him rarely have much problem as long as they hit spots on the outer half. With all of the raw talent he has, he need not try to do too much with pitches with his arms, yet just rely on his physically sound lower half to get the ball to the gaps and beyond. Along with how his body develops, much of the mystery surrounding how far Reyes can go also depends on how his mind gets on along with how he sorts out the few tweaks in his upper half including his arms (hard hands lead to his elbows flying open and his elbows winding up more horizontal than straight up and down) hands and eyes. Without much speed to speak of and being an average defensive play, it would seem that his future rides solely on what he will be able to produce at the dish. If he can work out the small kinks and get his mind right advantageously in high A, he has all of the potential to become a starting staple at first base and also has eligibility at the other corner and in the outfield, making him an easy play for his managers. I will be following him closely next year when he brings his talents to Jupiter in what would seem like a make or break season in terms of his prospect status and what exactly the Marlins have in him.
Switch hitters. With the percentage of them slowly dwindling year by year to the current rate of just 14% (65/460 hitters with at least 300 total ABs) it was at between 2013 and last year, it is increasingly becoming a lost art and thus an even more sought after commodity. Accordingly, the methodical weaning away of switch hitters has made an already rare commodity even rarer: the switch hitting catcher. Never a popular player due to the succeptibility to injury at the position and the lack of offensive prowess of battery men, teams have only been able to reap the benefits of a switch hitting backstop 94 times since 1901. Of those 94, due to the aforementioned injury bug, lack of offensive capability or other unforeseen circumstances, only 48 have been every day players who have topped at least 500 plate appearances while playing at least half of their games behind the plate. Of those 48, only nine have come about in the last five years. Thus, when a guy like Jorge Posada, Victor Martinez, Yasmani Grandal, or Matt Weiters surfaces, he is looked upon as a fantastic athlete with great vision which aids him on both sides of the ball and thus an extremely powerful assert to the team. By having the fourth best month of his career this May, a .344/.394/.508 campaign, Tomas Telis took a step towards that future.
Currently just 24 years old, Telis has already amassed quite the extensive career in the minors and gotten his first taste of big league ball. By the looks of him this season, he liked the taste of that morsel and wants to get another one ASAP.
A native of El Tigre, Venezuela, a 17-year-old Telis began his career in 2008 with a .299/.374/.380 campaign, outhitting the likes of league mates such as Marcell Ozuna, Jonathan Villar and Ender Inciarte. Telis followed that with a 2009 season in the Arizona League in which he hit .322/.333/.470, leading his team in each category amongst those who played at least 30 games. He was one of just three catchers in the league to top the .300 mark with his batting average, one of two to top the .370 mark with his slugging percentage and one of two to top the .800 mark in OPS. His 86 total bases by way of 18 XBHs including five triples ranked 12th in the league. Telis got 144 more ABs in 37 games in the Arizona League in 2010, most of which came at DH allowing him to hone his offensive craft a bit more exclusively. This resulted in a similar season but in slightly better totals in OBP (.351), RBI (35), and walks (6) albeit in nine less games.
Telis made the jump to full season ball in 2011 with the Sally League’s Hickory Crawdads. That year, Telis tallied career highs in almost every countable stat including homers (11), RBIs (69), doubles (28), ABs (461) and runs scored (67). At the break, his .305/.345/.439 line earned him his first All-Star Game nod. Telis adjusted to the rigors of a full season well, hitting .288/.311/.419 in the second half. His overall His .297 BA ranked seventh in the Sally League and his .430 SLG ranked 30th, earning him Texas’ organizational MVP honors
Telis fell off a bit in 2012 offensively, hitting .247/.283/.331, all career lows and struck out 56 times, a career high. He made some great strides defensively, though, throwing out 57% of potential base stealers, a career high and his meal ticket to AA in 2013. Making the hardest jump there is to make in the minors, Telis hit .264/.290/.353 with 46 Ks in 91 games. His defense also fell off a bit as he allowed 78 steals in 115 attempts, dooming him to repeat a level for the first time in his career in 2014.
A 22-year-old Telis made up for having to begin a second season in Frisco though by making it all the way from AA to the MLB Rangers for his major league debut on August 25th of 2014. After hitting .303/.339/.401 and matching his career high in walks (17) while throwing out 41% of his runners over his first 267 ABs and 70 games in central Texas, he made the move south to AAA Round Rock. After just 36 games there in which he hit .345/.377/.489 with three homers and 17 RBI, the Rangers selected him to replace Geovany Soto whom they had traded. He played 18 games for the Rangers, hitting .250/.271/.279 to end a fantastic overall year which spelled a .318/.352/.431 minor league line with five homers, 50 RBI and a career best full season 1.78 K/BB.
Following a .291/.327/.404, five homer, 25 RBI, 31/14 K/BB, 21 XBH offensive start over his first 70 games in Round Rock and catching 27 of 56 runners defensively as well as six more games with the Rangers to start 2015, Telis was traded to the Marlins along with pitcher Cody Ege for reliever Sam Dyson. He began his Marlins career by hitting .333/.389/.333 over his first 13 games a Zephyr and, as a September call-up, appeared in 17 games with the Marlins. His start to 2016 has been nothing short of spectacular as he is on pace to slash full season career highs in each category and on pace for full season career highs in RBIs and a career best in K/BB. With Jeff Mathis off to another terrible start to his season, this time .180/.226/.280 with 15 Ks and three walks and just a 25% caught stealing percentage, Telis’ third major league callup shouldn’t be too far away.
A true switch hitter who has faced lefties and a righty 33% as much as he has faced righties as a lefty in his career and only faced pitchers from the same side twice in his career, Telis enjoys similar success from both sides (.269 as RHB vs LHP, .304 as LHB vs RHB), Telis is mechanically sound on both sides. Swinging from a very low split stace, the 5’8, 200 pound Telis minimizes the strike zone before using a front foot timing trigger to get his weight moving backward and step into the ball. He transfers his weight from back to front and maintains looseness in his hands well, allowing his extremely advantageous plate vision to serve him until the ball is over the plate. When he does swing, it is an athletic stroke in which he snaps his wide hips through the zone and keeps his elbows pointed downward. It has slight loft which gives him the ability to reach fences, but at his size and especially when you consider he has gone yard just 20 times since 2011, it is an offering that is better projected as that of a for-average hitter. But that is nothing to shrug at. Telis’ versatile plate game follows him in to the field where he has eligibility at first base and in the outfield, making him a guy that is extremely easy to get in to games and, vica versa, a tough guy for opposing managers to match up against, especially late in games. Without great current defensive skills having thrown out just 28% of his runners in his minor league career and just 10% of runners in his small sample MLB career (2 of 21), that backup and quality bat off the bench capacity looks to be the one this current version of Telis looks to serve on an immediate basis but should the likes of Mathis and Chris Johnson, who has hit just .245/.300/.373 platooning with Justin Bour, continue to struggle, could step in to regular playing time for a Marlins team battling for the playoffs later this year. With progress and improvement to his defensive game, which is entirely possible for the still 24-year-old, Telis could easily become a very valuable every day backstop. It is that capacity which the Marlins, who gave up quality relief help for, will be hoping Telis can grow in to. They, as well as we, will be watching the rest of his maturation process very intently.
The Florida State League. Extremely kind to pitchers, a hard knock life (or not at all depending on your viewpoint) for hitters. For years, the country’s southernmost league has had a rich history of stymieing young hitters, including some of the game’s most successful ones. From 2008 to 2013, FSL parks barely rendered numbers north of the mendoza line as they held hitters to just a .256/.326/.372/.698 line, 4.2 runs per game, and a home run percentage of just 1.5. Most of those figures were the lowest in all of minor league baseball. One of the biggest catalysts for the minuscule offensive figures is the home of the Jupiter Hammerheads, Roger Dean Stadium. Over that same six season span, the cavernous park which boasts dimensions of 335/400/325 and is situated in a wide-open space just miles in from the coast which allows swirling sea breeze to become trapped over it’s surface held Florida State League offenses to park factors of 0.876 in runs, .757 in homers and .949 in hits where 1 is average, anything over 1 favors hitters and anything under 1 favors pitchers. The same trend has continued in recent years as Roger Dean has never once posted a park factor over 1 in any category in at least the past eight years. That is why when a player comes along and is able to accomplish what Brian Anderson was able to accomplish in April hitting .313/.412/.470 including .320/.382/.500 at the Dean, scouts heads snap off their necks as they quickly take notice. And that is the reason why he is my first prospect of the month for the 2016 season.
A third round draft pick out of Arkansas in 2014, Anderson forwent his senior year as a Razorback following a .318/.418/.467 NCAA career to join the professional ranks. After signing, Anderson made the move to upstate New York and joined Batavia for the beginning of the short season. After getting his feet wet there by hitting .273/.333/.455 with 3 homers and 12 RBI, he made the move to full-season ball in Greensboro for 39 games. In just 153 ABs, Anderson smashed eight homers, drove in 37 runs and held down a .378 OBP by way of a 28/13 K/BB. His .516 SLG lead the Hoppers that year amongst players with at least 100 ABs, positioning Anderson as Baseball America’s 9th best organizational prospect headed in to 2015. That year, Anderson came falling back down to earth, managing to hit just .235/.304/.340. However, that wasn’t without cause. Not only was it the first time Anderson had played more than 65 games in his career at any level, they all came in the aforementioned offensively suppressing Florida State League at the highest level he’s ever played at. This year, Anderson is back with a new and improved vengeance. Formerly a split stance swinger at the plate that allowed him the tendency to fly open to his far side on pitches away and attributed to his K total of 109 last year, Anderson is now swinging from a completely straight away stance. Most noticeably though is that pre-pitch, Anderson stands straight up and down, staring pitchers down from his intimidating 6’3″, 185 pound frame. He picks up pitches out of the pitcher’s hand well and after release, follows the ball not only with his eyes but also his legs, adjusting his stance all the way through the pitch for movement. He keeps his head down until the ball is in the glove and does not commit to a swing until the pitch is over the plate. He adjusts for, consistently gets wood on the ball, and even more consistently barrels the ball up with a straight through swing that has some loft and can reach fences but can also hit gaps with line drives. Anderson possesses prevalent bat speed on top of wide snappy hips which allow him to get the most out of his present strength. The approach will afford him some strikeouts in the way that he waits pitches out and can rarely hold up on swings once he commits but will also afford him as many if not more walks due to his ability to wait out break, even break of the late variety. If pitchers are going to strike Anderson out, they are going to have the stuff that earns it. While the retooled approach has worked wonders for Anderson against same-side pitching, it has yet to rear it’s head against lefties. However, he has had just 39 ABs vs them this year and has fared well against them in his career so that should regulate as the year goes along.
Defensively, Anderson came up as a second baseman before making the move to third base in 2014 and becoming a full-time corner man in 2015. Though he has plenty of arm strength needed to make it across the diamond, quick footwork, a solid glove and good gap coverage especially for a guy his size, his arm accuracy has been an ongoing problem as he has committed 28 errors in 1612 innings, most of them being of the throwing variety. At 23, unless he can turn things around in a hurry which is always possible with the likes of Perry Hill in the organization to tutor him as he makes his way through the latter stages of the minors, Anderson’s future in the field looks to be at first base.
Long story short: Overall, Anderson is a sizeable power bat who recently retooled his approach for the better after his first full year in the minors. He barrels balls up on the regular with a quick swing with some loft, allowing him to both reach the fences and hit gaps but is also becoming a pesky out to get because of his ability to wait out the break on pitches. Once a pure power threat, he is grasping the ability to hit for average while also holding down a solid K/BB, making him a solid all-around threat. Defensively, Anderson is currently a 3B but his future will likely be as a 1B.