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Plassmeyer, Harris off to strong starts for 2018 Tiger draft class

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It’s been almost two and a half months since six Tigers were taken in the MLB Draft. What have they been up since then?

Twitter: @EverettAquaSox

Football season is less than two weeks away. Basketball is closing in on three months.

But baseball? Folks, baseball is always in season, especially in the late summer.

As we prepare to ramp up into full-football mode in the coming weeks, it’s a good time to look back on the summer for Mizzou sports. One of the undoubted highlights was the first week of June, when six Mizzou Tiger baseball players were selected in the MLB First Year Players Draft. It was a bittersweet time for the program as all six opted to throw themselves into the world of professional baseball, likely putting some pressure on next year’s roster. But it also affords us the opportunity to follow the careers of six more True Sons in the baseball world, so I’m sure Steve Bieser won’t be crying too many tears.

Speaking of those six, it’s probably a good time to check in on their young careers. More than two months have passed since they were chosen in the draft, and they’ve had ample opportunity to showcase their talents in their respective organizations. Let’s dig into their numbers and see how the 2018 draft class has performed so far.

Pitchers

2018 Mizzou Draft Class (Pitchers)

Player Level K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP BABIP
Player Level K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP BABIP
Michael Plassmeyer Class A Short 46.8 2.6 2.18 0.89 0.94 0.316
Bryce Montes de Oca Class A Short 0 0 0 0 0 0
Andy Toelken* Class A Short 16.9 7.9 3.38 4.8 5.02 0.323
Giovanni Lopez Rookie 20.4 24.1 6.55 6.45 5.62 0.31
Based on numbers from FanGraphs

*Andy Toelken was promoted to Class A- after 8 games in the Rookie league. His listed stats are from his time in Rookie ball.

Michael Plassmeyer:

From his profile:

If the Mariners want to wait and see how his body develops and strengthens, Plassmeyer probably has a ceiling as a 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues. If, however, they want to utilize him quickly, he could be a long-relief option with the potential to become a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out GuY). Personally, I’d let Plassmeyer adjust to professional hitters for the next 2-4 years and see if he can put a bit more velocity on his fastball. If he does that and keeps his command, he’s looking at a solid career as a major league starter.

It probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, but Plassmeyer, the Tigers’ highest drafted player, has had the best start to his pro career. Plassmeyer made the jump right to Class A- (short season) and has been dominant since arriving. He’s striking out nearly half the batters he faces while only walking about 3 percent. His ERA is already an excellent 2.18, but looks even better when you consider his FIP and xFIP, both of which account for more specific pitcher performance than ERA.

To be honest, this is even better than I expected from Plassmeyer this early in his career. There may be some unsustainable performance in these numbers, but Plass is already showing he’s got what it takes to be a future major league starter. If he keeps his walk rates low, his strike out rates high and can maintain some injury luck, he’ll be in Seattle in the next few years.

Those numbers are even better now, as you can see in the table above.

Bryce Montes de Oca:

From his profile:

His injury history and shaky command - though it is improving - make him a tough sell as a future starter... The Mets will likely be working to shore up his mechanics and command and, if they’re successful, will find a slot for him in the big league bullpen.

Unfortunately, MDO’s injuries have derailed the very beginning of his professional career. Some minor internet sleuthing couldn’t reveal many specifics, but he was placed on the disabled list a while after he was drafted and has yet to make his professional debut. Get well soon, Bryce.

Andy Toelken:

From his profile:

His likely ceiling is in a bullpen role in the majors, though there’s a scenario where he gets emergency starts or maybe even works his way onto the back end of a rotation. Like many mid-to-late round picks, he’s going to have a steep climb, and he’ll be hard-pressed to make an impression quickly: a lot of these types of picks ended up being drafted over.

It seems as if the Diamondbacks agreed with the above assessment of Toelken’s ability, as his time in Rookie ball was spent splitting starts and bullpen work. His 3.38 ERA and low walk rate were impressive, though his expected performance numbers showed some more work to be done. However, the Diamondbacks clearly thought he was ready to make another leap. He was quickly promoted to Class A-, where he’ll probably play out the rest of this year. He’s only appeared in three games there and has yet to make a start, so Toelken will likely be working as a bullpen man from here on out.

Giovanni Lopez:

From his profile:

He’s got strikeout stuff, but still struggles with his command, which isn’t that unusual for a college reliever... he could stand to boost his stock if he were to stay another year and prove he can shore up his command.

I’m still a little confused as to why Lopez didn’t choose to come back to Mizzou and boost his stock a little bit, but I’m also not privy to his situation, so you’ll find no judgment here. Unfortunately, Lopez has struggled more than any Mizzou prospect so far. His performance and expected performance numbers are pretty bloated, most likely because his walk rate is currently sitting close to 25 percent. And his strikeout rate? A few percentage points lower. Lopez has a lot of work to do if he wants to break into the higher levels of minor league ball. Don’t be surprised to see him stay at Rookie all for the next year or so developing his command.

Position Players

2018 Mizzou Draft Class (Batters)

Player Level AVG OBP SLG K% BB% HR wRC+
Player Level AVG OBP SLG K% BB% HR wRC+
Brian Sharp Class A Short 0.269 0.351 0.41 34.2 11.6 4 126
Trey Harris* Rookie 0.314 0.45 0.467 9.8 15.9 1 162
Based on numbers from FanGraphs

*Trey Harris was promoted to Class A after 31 games in the Rookie league. His listed stats are from his time in Rookie ball.

Brian Sharp

From his profile:

I think (Sharp’s) size and improving offensive tools give him a little more upside as an infielder, but he’s been a more consistent pitcher in his college career.

It looks like, as of now, the Mets will move forward with Sharp as an infielder. That makes a lot of sense. If he develops as a hitter, he’s a really intriguing multi-positional guy with a good bat, which carries a lot of organizational value. If his bat ever sticks, he has the tools to be redeveloped as a pitcher. So it’s kind of a win-win situation for the Mets.

Sharp has racked up 150+ plate appearances so far and is currently putting up a 126 weighted Runs Created plus.* His strikeout rate is probably unsustainable at this point, but he’s also had a walk rate that’s been steadily creeping up. He’s also displaying some of the same power he showed at Mizzou with four dingers so far. He’s already in Class A- and will probably stick there for the rest of the year. Should he continue this success, he’ll probably get a promotion for next year.

Trey Harris

From his profile:

His size probably makes him a second (or third) baseman long term, which is where his offense and speed will play best. Unfortunately, he’s been almost exclusively an outfielder in college and will need to undergo a change in positions on the fly.

You should always take words from people like me with a grain of salt. Harris has exclusively played outfield in his young career, spending most of his time in right field. He even spent a fair amount of time in Rookie ball playing center field, so the Braves seem to trust his defensive ability quite a bit. I still wonder if he’d need to transition in the higher leagues, but he seems to be adjusting to professional outfield work just fine.

The bigger surprise on Harris, though, is just how quickly his bat translated to professional ball. In 31 games, Harris clubbed a ridiculous 162 wRC+ with a .314/.450/.467 slash line. If you’re hitting like that in the majors, you’re an MVP candidate. Harris only hit one home run, but was a big doubles and triples guy. He also — and this is the most impressive part of his whole line — walked more than he struck out. If Harris is going to make the most of his outside shot at making the majors, a well-developed batting eye could do wonders for him. He has since been promoted to Class A ball, where he’s not hitting as well — .242/.316/.333 slash in 38 plate appearances — but his batting average on balls in play is sitting at .250, so there’s probably some bad luck to factor in.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harris stick at Class A for another year. But if he can continue impressing with his defense and keep his on-base percentage up, he’ll force the Braves to give him a look at the higher levels. Overall, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive start to Harris’ professional career.


*Weighted Runs Created Plus is a ballpark-adjusted statistic that shows how far above or below league average a player is in offensive value. For instance, a player with a 100 wRC+ would be exactly league average offensively. A player with an 89 wRC+ would be 11 percent below average and one with a 126 with be 26 percent above.