Amateur baseball in the weeks after the Draft can be a very busy time.
There's no rest for the scouting industry, as the summer showcase circuit gets going almost immediately. This week, most of the scouting world has been in Cary, N.C., at USA Baseball's National Training Complex for the annual Tournament of Stars.
At the same time, the College World Series is going on, and there have been plenty of recently drafted players in Omaha competing for a championship.
But we shouldn't ignore the professional prospects. After all, the Futures Game is right around the corner and the Trade Deadline is looming, with prospects sure to be on the move. That's already started, and the first question of this week's Inbox deals with exactly that topic.
Consider this the first of what is sure to be many trade analyses. I know the first gut reaction of Royals fans was that the team didn't get nearly enough for Herrera, the two-time All-Star with 14 saves. As I explained in the video above, I think a case can be made that Kansas City could have gotten a better return, especially if they had waited to closer to the Trade Deadline and perhaps created more of a bidding war among contenders. But I think if you take a closer look, it's not quite as thin of a return as you might think.
Yes, the Royals didn't get any high-profile prospects in return, but they did continue to add some much needed depth to their system. In Kelvin Gutierrez and Blake Perkins, they added two guys now in the top 15 of their Top 30 prospects list. Gutierrez is an interesting third base prospect, one with an advanced feel for hitting and excellent defensive actions at the hot corner. And he's in the upper levels, currently in Double-A. He comes in at No. 7.
Perkins is a toolsy center fielder a level behind Gutierrez who was trying to find his footing in the Carolina League when the trade happened. He'll get to stay in the circuit and has plus speed that allowed him to steal 31 bases a year ago. He's an outstanding defender in center and has good on-base skills. Finding dynamic players who will stay up the middle is a must for all systems. Finally, there's Yohanse Morel, who is a bit of a wild card. He signed out of the Dominican Republic just last summer for $100,000 and has made just one pro start in the Dominican Summer League. But he has some arm strength with a fastball that touches the mid-90s and some feel for a power breaking ball. Keep an eye on him, he could be the key to this deal when all is said and done.
I'm not one to sound alarms just because a team isn't doing something that's "all the rage" currently. Personally, I like to see a balanced attack and approach offensively. But I get it. Power and the ability to drive the ball is important and more teams are building lineups and teaching approaches accordingly. Hey, even in Pittsburgh, Colin Moran is Exhibit A of a prospect (well, recently graduated prospect) who has changed his approach with things like launch angle in mind.
But I figured it was worthwhile to take a closer look at this organization-wide lack of power and how the Pirates are seemingly ignoring it. And here's the thing -- they're really not. Let's first look level-by-level at slugging percentage in 2017 and as of Thursday this year:
Level, 2018 SLG, 2017 SLG
MLB, .413, .386
AAA, .429, .402
AA, .386, .383
A+, .398, .379
A, .395, .381
As you can see, the Pirates are slugging at a better clip, albeit just marginally in some places, at every single level so far this year. It's true that this can be taken out of context. The SLG for each team hasn't taken a huge leap forward (though it does refute the argument that power is being ignored) and that just within the organization. Maybe compared to other teams at every level, the Pirates are really lagging behind. Let's take a look, shall we?
Level, 2018 SLG (rank in league)
MLB, .413 (5th)
AAA, .429 (1st)
AA, .386 (5th)
A+, .398 (2nd)
A, .395 (5th)
The good news is that your fears should be assuaged now. There are individual players, guys like Kevin Kramer in Indianapolis (11 homers already a career high), Will Craig in Altoona (11 homers, more than doubling his career total) and Calvin Mitchell in West Virginia (seven homers and a .504 SLG in his first full year), standing out with their power production so far in 2018.
No. 1 on the Phillies' Top 30 list and No. 23 overall, Sanchez was throwing very well as a 19-year old in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. His 2.51 ERA would be third-best in the FSL if he had enough innings to qualify, and his 1.07 WHIP would be fifth.
But right elbow inflammation landed him on the disabled list earlier this month, and he's been on the shelf since June 9. He was coming off of FSL Pitcher of the Week honors following a seven-inning complete game shutout. The Phillies are obviously erring on the side of caution right now. An MRI showed nothing that required immediate surgery and Sanchez is currently rehabbing in Florida. The team feels they'll have a better sense of an expected return date very soon.
As far as his ceiling, it's considerable. Assuming he's healthy, he's one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, one who could be at the top of that list at some point in the future. His combination of premium stuff -- he does have three above-average to plus pitches -- and his feel for pitching (60 control on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) makes him very exciting to watch. We all have the tendency to take any 6-foot Latin American right-hander and make a Pedro comp, myself included. It might be unfair, but it's safe to say that Sanchez has the tools to be a very good top of the rotation type of pitcher for a long time.
The short answer to the first question is: Goodyear, Ariz. Beyond that, details are a bit vague. Here's what I know. Aiken is at the Indians complex in Arizona, working through a throwing program. He's making strides in the right direction and the plan is for him to get into games later this summer if things continue going in the right direction.
That's all the definites at this point. If I had to guess, in a perfect world he'd eventually head back to Lake County, where he spent the 2017 season. It was a healthy one that included 27 starts and 132 innings of work, though he scuffled and finished with a 4.77 ERA. All reports were that he had a healthy offseason and was looking forward to turning a corner in '18. Then, he vanished. There's been no news of a particular injury, but there were things that needed to be addressed based on his '17 season. His stuff backed up, with a dip in velocity, his walk rate spiked and he missed fewer bats. Physically, he got bigger and had trouble repeating his delivery, which of course leads to command issues. So it's possible the Indians simply needed to hit a reset switch with him, hold him back in Arizona and almost start over again.
Aiken, of course, was the No. 1 pick of the Draft in 2014, but didn't sign with the Astros because of an issue with his left elbow. He went to IMG Academy to re-enter the Draft and needed Tommy John surgery right after his first outing that spring. The Indians rolled the dice and drafted him No. 16 overall in 2015. They worked with him on his rehab and he returned to make his pro debut in 2016. While his first full season was rough, there was encouragement because he was healthy. Now we'll all just have to wait and see what he is and what he can become. Age is on his side, as he doesn't turn 22 until August.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.