FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Cease, L. Urias, A. Young, Haseley, Starling

First Impressions is a look at recent call-ups, a snapshot of their early progress so far in the majors. Initial BaseballHQ.com minor league write-ups for all of the players in today's column can be found in the News tab on their individual PlayerLink pages. Because many of these players have accumulated less than 100 AB or 50 IP, small sample size warnings apply to the analysis here.

 

First Impression: Dylan Cease (RHP, CHW)

CALLED UP: 7/3/2019
BASEBALLHQ PROSPECT RATING: 9E
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting pitcher
2019 MINORS STATS: Charlotte (AAA)—4.48 ERA, 68.1 IP/15 GS, 4.1 Ctl, 9.6 Dom, 2.3 Cmd

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  ====  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2018# 53  2.33   N/A  4.2  11.5  2.8     N/A    29/83   N/A  N/A  N/A  122
2019  39  5.54  5.18  4.6   8.1  1.8  47/18/35  31/70   19%  60%  10%   46
#Double-A MLEs

It has been a rough transition to the majors:

  • Cease has tremendous potential, with a fastball that can hit triple digits and a plus curveball, but his biggest problem is his lack of control, an issue that has dogged him from Double-A all the way to the majors. His FpK is league average, and suggests he has the skill to cut down on the walks, though he threw more first-pitch strikes in his first three starts (69%) than in his last four starts (53%), so things are not trending in a good direction.
  • He could do more to counter that high walk rate with a double-digit strikeout rate, but his Dom has been sliding downward with each step up the organizational ladder. And his 10% SwK doesn't offer much hope for improvement in the short term.
  • He's having some trouble against left-handed batters, against whom he has posted a 5.9 Ctl and 6.6 Dom, compared to 3.9 and 8.9 against right-handers. Lefties are hitting .317 with a .964 OPS against him, though a 34% hit rate says there's been some bad luck involved.

The 23-year-old Cease is one of the game's best pitching prospects, and ranked 21st on our preseason HQ100 list, but he also came into his major league debut with a total of 121 IP of combined experience at Double-A and Triple-A, and his Triple-A numbers weren't all that great. He may simply need a little more time in the minors. Seeing as how the White Sox are in the midst of a lost season, they'll likely give him a long leash in the majors in 2019, but it's fair to wonder if his spot in the 2020 rotation might be a little more tentative now. Long-term, however, his raw stuff is good enough to justify continued patience, though it's worth noting, as our minor league analyst Matthew St-Germain mentioned in Cease's call-up report, that his "average-at-best change has always lagged, and combined with frame and durability concerns, has caused a substantial amount of scouts to peg Cease as a future lockdown closer rather than starter."

 

First Impression: Luis Urias (2B, SD)

CALLED UP: 8/28/2018, 4/8/2019, 7/20/2019
BASEBALLHQ PROSPECT RATING: 8B
CURRENT ROLE: Starting 2B
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting 2B
2019 MINORS STATS: El Paso (AAA)—295 AB, .315/.398/.600, 19 2B, 19 HR, 0.58 Eye, 7 SB

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2017# 442  .294   N/A   13   85   N/A     N/A     48/N/A   N/A   89/N/A   3/ 7
2018+ 450  .252   N/A   10   73   N/A     N/A     81/N/A   N/A   83/N/A   6/ 1
18MLB  48  .208  .253    6   79    90  63/16/21   78/ 78   25%   93/10%   2/ 1
2019   90  .178  .203   15   74    97  56/12/32   50/ 71    5%  113/ 0%   1/ 0
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
MLB   138  .188  .224   12   76    93  59/13/28   57/ 71   10%  101/ 3%   3/ 1
#Double-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

The transition to the majors has not gone well, but there are positives in his skills:

  • Urias has struggled at the plate in the majors, both in his late-season call-up in 2018, and again in 2019. His contact rate has dropped sharply since Double-A, and that, along with consistently below-average power and a lack of line drives, has left him with little hope of posting a meaningful batting average, as his xBA history shows.
  • However, despite the struggles, his walk rate has held strong, and even improved at the major league level. He has a 0.74 Eye on the season, and since his most recent call-up in July, he's improved that mark to 1.08 over 66 AB, thanks to an 82% contact rate during that period. If he can sustain that kind of plate discipline, it could make for an excellent building block for other skills.
  • His high ground ball rate could pose a problem for his ability to develop power. He's consistently posted GB% rates of 50%+ in the minors—with the exception of a 38% rate in Triple-A this year—and fly ball rates under 30%. But scouts believe he can eventually develop 15 HR power in the majors.
  • Likewise, scouts also think he'll eventually become a 15 SB contributor, though he's never posted more than 10 SB in a single season, and his success rates have not been very good—in Single-A, he was thrown out almost twice as often as he succeeded, and from Double-A through the majors, he has owned a 69% success rate.

The 22-year-old Urias is still very much a work-in-progress, and rostering him in keeper leagues will require patience. His third stint in the majors seems to be going better than his previous ones, and if he can sustain his recently elite plate discipline, we might start to see progress in other areas of his game as well.

 

First Impression: Alex Young (LHP, ARI)

CALLED UP: 6/27/2019
BASEBALLHQ PROSPECT RATING: 7C
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting pitcher/swingman
2019 MINORS STATS: Reno (AAA)—6.09 ERA, 54.2 IP/8 GS, 4.3 Ctl, 10.5 Dom, 2.5 Cmd

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  hr/f  FpK  SwK  BPV
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ===  ========  =====  ====  ===  ===  ===
2017# 137  5.13   N/A  4.1  5.6  1.4     N/A    32/69   N/A  N/A  N/A   28
2018^ 132  5.41   N/A  2.6  6.0  2.3     N/A    35/65   N/A  N/A  N/A   52
2019   43  3.98  4.83  3.1  6.9  2.2  47/14/40  23/69   12%  62%  12%   65
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

There's growth here, but his current ERA is misleading:

  • Young made a bit of a splash by going 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA, 0.48 WHIP, and 4.3 Cmd over his first three starts and one relief appearance, but he had a very healthy dose of luck, too, with a 10% hit rate and a 100% strand rate. His hit rate is still due for regression, which is why his xERA is nearly a run higher than his ERA, and since that hot start, he's 1-3 with a 6.29 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and 1.7 Cmd over 5 GS.
  • He has been showing modest improvement in his strikeout rate from year to year, and while his current MLB Dom is unimpressive, his above-average SwK suggests he has the potential to strike out more hitters, though his 89.4 mph fastball velocity likely puts a cap on how high he'll go.
  • Control has been a problem at times during his career, though he took a big step forward in 2018. But walks have reared their ugly head again during his recent struggles, as he has a 4.4 Ctl rate and 59% FpK over his last 5 GS. And with an above-average FB% and below-average Dom, those walks become a lot more problematic.

The 25-year-old Young caught some lightning in a bottle in the weeks after his call-up, but his mediocre skills are starting to catch up with him, and he's likely to lose his rotation spot when Luke Weaver returns from the IL, or even sooner if his performance continues to falter. Long-term, he has some promise if he can combine the kind of control he exhibited in 2018 with a rising strikeout rate, though his ceiling is probably that of a back-end starter.

 

First Impression: Adam Haseley (OF, PHI)

CALLED UP: 6/4/2019, 7/13/2019, 8/9/2019
BASEBALLHQ PROSPECT RATING: 8C
CURRENT ROLE: Platoon CF
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting OF
2019 MINORS STATS: Reading (AA)—165 AB, .267/.353/.485, 8 2B, 8 HR, 0.60 Eye, 4 SB; Lehigh (AAA)—68 AB, .294/.377/.471, 6 2B, 2 HR, 0.57 Eye, 1 SB

Year   AB   BA    xBA  HR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====
2018# 136  .282   N/A   5    9   84   N/A     N/A     74/N/A   N/A
2019   97  .268  .271   3    3   74    97  56/24/21   92/ 49   20%
#Double-A MLEs

He needs to make some adjustments to remain somewhat productive:

  • Haseley has hit fairly well (.733 OPS) for a guy who's essentially a fourth outfielder right now, and while his batting average comes with xBA support, his power output is not backed by xPX, and if his PX regresses, so will his xBA.
  • He's been making right around league average hard contact, but the problem is he's hitting way too many ground balls and too few fly balls. That's a part of his game, but in the minors, his GB% was typically between 42-48%, and his FB% was more like 30-38%; shifting his batted ball output in that direction would help his power game a bit.
  • Likewise, he's been striking out a lot more in the majors, and that's not helping his game either. And both issues seem to be growing worse with his most recent call-up—in August, he has a 64% contact rate and 61/30/09 G/L/F mix in 36 AB. That has led to a .667 OPS and .239 xBA during that stretch.

The 23-year-old Haseley was a first-round pick in 2017 and was considered, in the words of minor league analysts Matthew St-Germain, "a player with solid all-around skills with a number of 55-grade tools, but nothing plus," though the Phillies hope was that they would be able to unlock more power from him. He'll need to find better balance with his batted ball output to do that, and his deteriorating contact rate raises concerns that he's a bit overmatched in the majors right now. With the right adjustments and growth, he could be of deep league interest in the future, but his 2019 value is probably at or near its peak.

 

First Impression: Bubba Starling (OF, KC)

CALLED UP: 7/11/2019
BASEBALLHQ PROSPECT RATING: 6E
CURRENT ROLE: Starting CF
POTENTIAL ROLE: Reserve OF
2019 MINORS STATS: Omaha (AAA)—261 AB, .310/.358/.448, 11 2B, 7 HR, 0.36 Eye, 9 SB

Year   AB   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  hr/f  Spd/SBO  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2015# 331  .227   N/A    7   71   N/A     N/A    105/N/A   N/A  100/N/A   8/ 3
2016^ 399  .161   N/A    4   61   N/A     N/A     86/N/A   N/A  110/N/A   5/ 9
2017+ 278  .215   N/A    5   74   N/A     N/A     69/N/A   N/A   74/N/A   5/ 4
2018+  35  .219   N/A   10   80   N/A     N/A     43/N/A   N/A   58/N/A   0/ 1
2019   98  .214  .208    5   65    77  44/24/32   60/ 74   10%  103/ 5%   2/ 1
#Double-A MLEs
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs
+Triple-A MLEs

Better late than never, but he still faces a uphill battle to provide value:

  • Over his lengthy minor league career, Starling has gone from #5 overall pick in the 2011 draft to highly-rated prospect to being just another minor leaguer, but thanks to a resurgent season in Triple-A in 2019 (and the Royals being out of contention), he finally earned a call-up. Unfortunately, the power-speed combo that looked so promising early in his development has mostly gone away. He's hit a couple home runs in the bigs, but his hard contact and xPX are both well below league average.
  • His MLE BA history is terrible, and there has been no change in that regard as he's transitioned to the majors. He's making poor contact and not hitting for much power, and xBA confirms that his skills make him a major BA liability.
  • His speed rating has rebounded at the major league level, and coming off 9 SB in 261 AB in Triple-A gives some hope that he might still be able to contribute with his legs. But he'll also be hindered by his low BA/OBP—his current OBP is .252, which really limits his opportunities to run.

It's great that, at 27, Starling is finally getting a shot in the majors, but he's so far removed from his days as a promising young prospect that we shouldn't expect any miracles. He might be able to rack up some steals if he can hold down a starting job, but even that value would likely be compromised by mediocre power and a terrible batting average. You can root for Starling to pull off the seemingly impossible, but you shouldn't invest in that outcome.


Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.