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A brief check in on minor league stat leaders

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Are the players leading certain categories in the minor leagues worth paying attention to?

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to prospects, a cardinal rule is “Don’t scout the box score”. Someone’s line may look very good or bad, but context is needed as well as supplemental notes from eyewitness reports to form a full picture.

Of course, game performance still matters, especially if they’re the best in all of minor league baseball in a category. Let’s check in on some of the leaders (min. 50 AB/20 IP) and see if there’s any action we should take.

Franmil Reyes, OF (SD): Runs/HR/RBI

That’s right, entering Wednesday, one player led all of minor league baseball in three of the most important fantasy categories. Reyes has 31 runs, 13 home runs and 36 RBIs and much of that production is thanks to a ridiculous stretch of eight home runs in five days last week. He’s been a popular add in dynasty leagues and I suggest you do the same if your league rosters more than 200 prospects.

The good: Reyes is a massive 6-foot-4, 240-pound dude with 70-grade raw power. But unlike similar profiles, he’s not sporting a 35 K%. He’s sitting at 20 percent to go with a 12 percent walk rate, both improvements on last year. He’s also 22 at Triple-A so he’s even young for the level.

The bad: Reyes doesn’t have pedigree and his hit tool is supposed to be below average. His eight home runs were incredible but it could just as easily have been a really hot stretch. The Padres outfield is also hard to crack right now. He’s a right fielder and Travis Jankowski is manning that spot. When Wil Myers returns things get more complicated because Manny Margot and Franchy Cordero aren’t going anywhere.

Ryan Noda, 1B (TOR): BB%

You’ll find fewer slash lines more ridiculous than Noda’s: .192/.443/.295. His 28.7 BB% leads all minor leaguers (as do his 33 walks). Only the deepest of dynasty leaguers might be familiar with him. A 15th-round selection in 2017, Noda is a 22-year-old lefty in his first season in A-ball. Last year he set the Appy league on fire after slashing .364/.507/.575. The walk rate is legit. And while it hasn’t manifested itself yet, he does have above-average power. In deep OBP leagues, he’s worth monitoring for now. While we love his walk rate, he’s old for his level and needs to show that power.

Myles Straw, OF (HOU): Stolen bases

I wrote a blurb for Straw on Baseball Prospectus last week (paywall alert!) about targeting him in deep leagues. He’s a speed-first outfielder whose swiped 17 bags in 20 attempts this season. The best part? He owns a career 13 BB% (and it’s up to 15 percent this season) and walks more than he strikes out. One of the only things better than a prospect with 80-grade speed is one who knows how to get on base. Straw has no power. I’m talking two-home-runs-in-1,368-career-plate-appearances kind of no power. But it’s hard to overlook what he’s doing. He also has the third-lowest SwStr% in the minors at a minuscule 2.4 percent. Kyle Tucker may be the prince who was promised in Houston, but don’t leave Straw off your radars.

Zac Lowther, LHP (BAL): K% (50%), K-BB% (46.2%)

What Lowther has done in 22 innings is wild. He’s struck out 39 batters and walked just three along with his 1.23 ERA (1.52 FIP). The 74th overall pick of 2017 has got to be a flame-thrower, right? Actually, he’s a lefty with a fastball that maxes out at 92 with an average changeup and a developing curve. Check out the video below to understand why his numbers are so good.

Lowther has great extension thanks to his three quarters delivery and as a result, his repertoire plays way up. While he also has good command, his upside is more of an SP4 than the SP2 his numbers might belie. I also hate to look at a prospect’s team, but, well, the Orioles have been pretty bad at developing pitchers.

Eli Morgan, RHP (CLE): Strikeouts (50 in 38.1 IP)

Morgan was an eighth-round selection from Gonzaga last season despite being top 10 in strikeouts and K/9 in his final collegiate season. Evaluators see an undersized 5-foot-10 righty with a below-average fastball. His bread and butter is an elite changeup and it’s the one pitch that will ensure he stays in a rotation. He has a slurvy breaking ball as his third pitch but it still needs development. It’s hard to force any call to action on behalf of Morgan. I’m not one to avoid undersized pitchers so long as they have a good fastball, but Morgan doesn’t fit that bill. Unlike Lowther though, the Indians organization is excellent at working to develop breaking pitches, so he has that going for him!

Garrett Williams, RHP (SF): GB%

Ground ball percentage is something I pay close attention to, and when you’re rocking a 68.8 percent mark in Double-A for an organization that plays in a huge park, I’m at least curious. Right now, Williams is struggling. He has allowed 14 earned runs in 24 innings and a whopping 18 walks. In college he was wild but had tamed it to a 1.15 WHIP in 97 innings in 2017, his second pro season. I don’t have an answer for why the walks have resurfaced, but it’s an issue he’s corrected before so for now we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Williams is a top 10 prospect for the Giants (which is not saying much) and he has two plus pitches, his fastball and curveball. Last season they helped him to a strikeout per inning, but against better competition in Double-A this year it’s ticked down to a 16 K%. If he can harness his command and control, Williams can be an SP3, but there’s about a 10 percent chance of that.