On Saturday March 30th, 2019, the Peoria Chiefs 2019 roster went live. While there isn't much to be surprised by, I have some thoughts about some of the roster decisions.
This group is headlined by four members of the Dirty Thirty-Five, and one member that will be on the list when prospect #1 Dakota Hudson falls off.
The first name that you know - and I'm willing to wager that you looked for - is Nolan Gorman. He'll be the starting third baseman for the Chiefs. There was a small chance that the D35's #3 prospect was going to start at Palm Beach, but I'm pretty happy that he is going to start where he ended the 2018 season. He's such a talented young man, and he's going to hit a ton of home runs and probably find his way to Palm Beach in no time at all, but he has a lot of work to do against lefties. He also has real work to do against advanced breaking pitches from righties. I'm on board with the Cardinals' giving him a chance to establish a little success before moving him up. Even if he spends the entire season at Peoria, he's still well ahead of the curve.
The next man from the D35 worth keeping an eye on at Peoria is Prospect #22, Leandro Cedeno. Cedeno is listed as an outfielder on the roster, but he's a first baseman long-term. That roster denotation probably means that he is going to get a lot of time DH'ing while mostly playing the outfield, but with a little time at first.
A lineup with Gorman and Cedeno is easily the most raw-powered lineup combo in the organization. With Gorman swinging left-handed and Cedeno swinging right-handed, there's going to be a fun power dynamic with Peoria that other teams within the organization won't come close to matching. Cedeno is going to need to keep that walk rate above 8% while lowering his K rate, all without losing any of his power if he wants to continue to climb the organizational ladder. Part of me hopes that these two spend the entire season there. If I had to place a bet on which one will have more home runs than the other when it's all said and done, I'M NOT PLACING THE BET BECAUSE IT'S A FOOLS BET.
Prospect #23 on the D35 is going to be a fast-riser in the organization, and that's because Ivan Herrera has an established major league-projectable swing and approach. The teenage catching prospect is WELL ahead of his peers at the plate, but it's his work behind the plate that needs cleaning up. There will be some growing pains for Herrera, but this is the correct assignment for him. I love that they're being aggressive with him. A full-season of catching will do him well. He's as much of an "Andrew Knizner Junior" as the organization could hope to have to develop.
The last prospect from the D35 to make his way onto the Peoria roster is Prospect #32. In my mind, I think of him as "The Prospect That You Dare Not Name" because the very mention of his name elicits a response from the fan base that is both damning and indicative of how passionate the fan base is.
That young man's name is Delvin Perez.
The Peoria assignment represents Delvin's first tour with a full season affiliate. If you haven't read it yet, you really should follow the link to his write-up because it tells the full story of Delvin's 2018 season. The gist of the story is, don't give up on Perez just yet. He is still only 20 years old, and he made some very positive strides in 2018, even if he finished poorly. He's become a bit of a defensive wizard at short, and he's a good base runner. The issues with Delvin remains his inability to drive the ball because he's built about 120 pounds soaking wet (listed at a more accurate 175). If you are the type that has already given up on Perez, then you're doing it wrong. 2019 will be a make or break season for the short stop. Probably.
Honorable mention here goes to Brady Whalen. He'll be prospect #35 on the list when Dakota Hudson graduates off of it. Whalen is a switch-hitting first baseman that brings power, walks, and strikeouts to the table. A former short stop that was converted to third baseman, Whalen is now one of the better defensive first basemen in the organization. The middle of the Peoria lineup with Whalen, Cedeno, and Gorman in it is going to be A LOT of fun to watch on a daily basis.
THE PITCHERS THAT I'LL BE KEEPING AN EYE ON
One thing that we've talked about a lot on Prospects after Dark lately is that the Cardinals have some questions about the pitching depth in the lower levels of their organization. You'll notice that reflected in the Peoria pitching staff.
There are some interesting names to keep an eye on but, for the most part, there isn't a ton of projectable major league potential on the roster.
Maybe the most interesting Peoria assignment is that RHP Alvaro Seijas will have a repeat tour of the Midwest League. Seijas REALLY struggled in 2018, and he probably should be repeating the league, However, I assumed that the Cardinals would push him to the pitching friendly Florida State League. The warm temperatures usually do the Caribbean kids well. Alas, Seijas will be tasked with jump starting his former top prospect standing at a league that he is familiar with. He is still only 20 years old, so try not to think of this as that much of a step backwards.
The most electric arm on the Peoria roster belongs to LHP Jacob Schlesener. For two seasons now, this power-lefty has been a feast or famine pitcher, but he might be as hard to hit as any pitcher on the farm. When I say that he is feast or famine, what I mean is, Jacob would either strikeout or walk a hitter, and that was basically the only two outcomes. We saw some very positive signs of growth in the command department at the end of the 2018 season, and he's going to have a bright future if he can keep that up. I regret not mentioning him in the March of the Prospects article at the beginning of the D35. Schlesener throws a fastball that he can get beyond the mid-90's (but is usually in the low-to-mid-90's), and a breaking pitch that can be devastating. It's all about command moving forward for the 22-year-old.
LHP Diego Cordero is a fan base favorite, and he's been really successful so far in the organization, but I'm not sure how long that success is going to last. I'm anxious to find out what an entire season of full-season baseball looks like. He's carried a respectable ERA and batting average against with him, but he doesn't strike anyone out. I haven't seen much of Cordero in person, either, and I'm anxious to see what this kid is all about.
RHP Tommy Parsons is a JuCo darling that owns a ton of JuCo records. He had a successful turn with Johnson City during the 2018 season after signing as a undrafted free agent. The Cardinals' really like this kid, and he's a high character player. I can't help but think that Parsons is going to be cut from the same mold as Anthony Shew and Zach Prendergast before him.
(EDITORS NOTE: I said that Parsons was a “JuCo darling”, but what I meant was that he is a Division III darling. i got myself all turned around. My bad!)
Perhaps the most interesting name on the Peoria pitching staff is 21-year-old RHP Sebastian Tabata. Tabata is making the jump to Peoria all of the way from the Dominican Summer League. THAT IS A HELLUVA JUMP! Tabata is older, and he dominated the league, so I'm fully on-board with this assignment. Tabata is a big boy, standing 6'5", and that has me excited. I've read a ton about this young man, and I've watched some of the showcase footage of him, but I'm going to hold off on sharing my thoughts until I see more of him in-game. If there's one pitcher at Peoria to pay a little extra attention to, I'd pick Tabata.
THE HITTERS THAT I'LL BE KEEPING AN EYE ON
I mentioned catcher Ivan Herrera already, but his catching battery-mate is also another name worth keeping an eye on. The left-handed swinging Zach Jackson is as raw of a catcher as Herrera is, but with less in the way of a developed hitting tool. He posted a huge strikeout rate of about 34% in 2018, and that's basically a disaster. However, he does have an impressive frame, and doubles power that has already manifested. I'd wager that some of that doubles power starts to turn into more over the wall power in 2019. Peoria already has enough options at first base, but I'm hoping to see Jackson get a little time there during the season.
The Cardinals are high on their 7th round pick from the 2018 draft, utility infielder Brendan Donovan. Donovan can play the outfield, but he'll be playing mostly second, with a little bit of third mixed in, for Peoria. I'm completely open-minded about Donovan, and I'm anxious to see how his skills play in the Midwest League. There were some that believed that the Cardinals got one of the steals of the draft with his selection, and I'm really hoping that this left-handed swinger proves those people right. I really like Donovan's physical build, and I think that he has a pretty swing.
Edwin Figuera should be the primary short stop for the Chiefs, and he's as good of a fielder as you'll find in the system. However, because of Delvin Perez ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, Figuera will play a utility role with the Chiefs. Figuera has also held his own with the bat for a couple of seasons now. This will be his second tour with Peoria, and had he not been hurt during his first tour there, then he might be picking it at Palm Beach to start the season. Figuera is the type of player that maximizes his speed and agility, and a little offensive breakout might be enough to catapult him onto the D35.
Oufielder Lars Nootbaar is on the roster. There. I did it. I brought up Lars Nootbaar. That usually makes people happy. LARS. NOOTBAAR.
Outfielder Wadye Ynfante is a former member of the D35, but he was terrible for State College in 2018 following his Johnson City breakout in 2017. Ynfante might be one of the fastest players in the organization, and his swing is beautiful, but he showed some major approach issues in the NY/Penn league last season. He was over-matched by fastballs and often beat by mediocre breaking pitches. He is going to need to take some major strides to reclaim that top prospect standing.
Finally, the Peoria faithful are going to LOVE outfielder Brandon Riley. The 2018 14th round pick out of UNC is an annoying hitter for opposing pitching. I mean it when I say that he annoys pitchers. He fights off pitches and works counts. He has surprising pop in his bat, and I've been surprised at how well he does as a left-handed swinger against tough left-handed pitching. There isn't much power in his bat, but there is a sneaky amount of pop in it. Riley can also play second base, and I'm anxious to see if he gets time there during the season. Riley is a battler and he's fun to watch, and I'm anxious to see him in the Peoria lineup.
SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
To me, the most noticeable absence from this list is outfielder Jhon Torres. Acquired from the Indians as part of the trade that sent away Oscar Mercado, I was really hoping that Torres would be aggressively pushed to Peoria. Oh well. He's still only 19 years old, and anything could happen. Hell, without knowing the Palm Beach roster just yet, maybe he's there! Probably not! But maybe!!! He's prospect #12 on the D35.
As I mentioned above, I'm really excited about the middle of this lineup. Depending on who is playing, having Riley and Donovan hitting ahead of Whalen, Gorman, and Cedeno could be a lot of fun to watch. This lineup is as deep and as fun as Peoria has had to start the season in a while.
Other than that, it is pretty much business as usually. My guess is, the pitching will struggle a bit but the offense will keep Peoria afloat. Either way, this is an exciting roster worth the price of admission! Plan your trip to Peoria, IL and Dozer Park ASAP!
Thanks For Reading!!