We’re more than a week out from the 2019 MLB Draft, where five Missouri Tigers were picked to begin their professional baseball careers. Despite the fact that many had one year of college eligibility left, it hasn’t taken long for many of them to make a decision on where they’re headed next.
As I predicted, 3 of 4 #Mizzou juniors that were drafted have now signed or have expressed plans to sign with their MLB teams. Just waiting on Kameron Misner, and I would be beyond shocked if he decided to stay in Columbia another year.— Ryan Herrera (@Ryan_A_Herrera) June 11, 2019
None of us are under the impression that Misner will come back for another year, right? OK, great. Moving on.
As with most MLB prospects, it will be at least three years before we hear any of these names crop up on a major league roster. Even three years is quite the fast rise through the minor league ranks — typically, you only see it with pitchers. In essence, it will be a while before we hear from many of these guys again.
So with summer in full swing, why don’t we check in on last year’s crop of Mizzou draft picks. Steve Bieser lost many of his best players to last year’s draft — or eligibility restrictions — and so far, we’ve seen a bit of a mixed bag from the class of 2018.
Michael Plassmeyer (4th Round, Seattle Mariners)
Update on the #Rays #Mariners trade:— Zach Wendkos (@zwendkos) June 11, 2019
Zunino: 0.2 WAR, has been injured
Heredia: 0.6 WAR, one of best OF def in the league
Plassmeyer: 2.15 ERA across A & A+, 56 K, 18 BB, 62 IP
Mallex Smith: -0.4 WAR, sent down to AAA at one point
Jake Fraley: 162 wRC+, .333/.402/.576 at AA
The former ace was scooped up in the fourth round of last year’s draft by the Seattle Mariners, but quickly learned the hard life of a professional ballplayer when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays last fall. It wasn’t a bad move — the Rays have done pretty well with developing pitchers in the minors and getting out of Seattle’s perpetually mediocre franchise is a big win for Plassmeyer long-term.
It hasn’t really mattered where Plassmeyer has been though, because he’s pretty much been lights out everywhere. He started the 2019 season in Bowling Green, Tampa’s A-Ball affiliate. It only took 29 innings for the Rays to advance him through the system. The lefty was dominant for the Hot Rods, striking out 32 to only seven walks while sporting a 1.23 ERA. For all you stat heads, he also had a 3.07 xFIP — which better quantifies a pitcher’s true performance — quite good for a second year player.
Plassmeyer has since moved to the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Class A+), where he’s pitched 33 innings. He hasn’t been quite as good — 24 strikeouts, 11 walks, 4.16 xFIP — but he’s still sporting a 2.97 ERA and has a minute home runs to fly ball rate. Plassmeyer still has some work ahead of him, but he’s right on track to making a career for himself as a major league starter.
Bryce Montes De Oca (9th Round, New York Mets)
So, yeah... things haven’t started great for the hard-throwing righty from Lawrence.
Montes De Oca was always an injury risk due to his checkered physical and jerky mechanics. However, the pure stuff he had was tantalizing enough for the Mets to pick him in the ninth round.
Things took a turn for the worse from there. MDO spent the entire 2018 season on the disabled list and has yet to pitch an inning in 2019. The Mets could be playing it very slow with him to make sure he’s completely healthy, so there’s no need to panic quite yet.
There’s no doubt, however, that this isn’t the career any of us would’ve liked to see for MDO.
Andy Toelken (19th Round, Arizona Diamondbacks)
Andy Toelken comes out of the Kane County bullpen to work a 1-2-3 5th inning and we have reached the halfway mark leading 3-1.— Quad Cities River Bandits (@QCRiverBandits) May 21, 2019
Toelken provides the road map for a guy like Cameron Dulle — who was chosen late in this year’s draft — as a career reliever in a time when relievers are more valuable than they’ve ever been.
Toelken struggled in the 2018 season, posting high FIP and xFIPs in 26 innings pitched across Rookie and Low-A ball. Most of his struggles came from the fact that he couldn’t strike anyone out — his strikeout percentage was only 16.7 in rookie ball and shrank to a catastrophic 4.8 percent when he was promoted.
Not to be outdone by Plassmeyer, though, Toelken has seen a major turnaround to his trajectory in 2019, turning himself into a dominant reliever. He’s been a workhouse out of the Kane County bullpen, appearing in 18 games. As with his whole career, he’s not walking many guys — only six so far — but now he’s striking people out too, fanning 31 across 36 innings. A lot of the success can probably be attributed to the fact that his fly ball percentage has gone from 44 percent to 29.6 percent in the new year, and his home run to fly ball rate (3.4 percent) bears that out. His xFIP matches that of Plassmeyer, and if he continues at this pace, he could have another promotion in his future.
Giovanni Lopez (23rd Round, Miami Marlins)
Not much to report here. Lopez wasn’t great in his rookie season, striking out 11 in as many innings, while walking 13 in the same time frame. He hasn’t yet appeared in any 2019 games, and there doesn’t seem to be any intel on why that is.
Brian Sharp (26th Round, New York Mets)
Right fielder Brian Sharp (7) of the @ColaFireflies is greeted in the dugout after scoring a run in a game against the Augusta GreenJackets on Friday, May 31, 2019, at Segra Park in Columbia, South Carolina. Augusta won, 8-6. (Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images) #MiLB pic.twitter.com/59Z4AE0ekT— Tom Priddy (@tpriddy) June 1, 2019
Things started well for the former two-way star, but it’s been tough sledding in his second season.
Sharp posted a well-above-average weighted Runs Created Plus* of 120 in his first season, but has seen it drop to a well-below-average 78. Most of this comes from his on-base percentage, which dropped from .347 to .264. This is likely due to the fact that he’s not walking as much as he did last season and is hitting into much worse luck — his batting average on balls in play was .398 last season and is now .264, whereas league average is usually around .300.
Sharp’s power stroke is actually coming around a little more this year, and that could be enough to keep him an intriguing asset for another year or two. However, he’ll have to learn how to get on base more often if he wants to stick in the Mets’ system.