Minor league baseball weekly cultivation for week ending July 24, 2021

The 2021 Major League Baseball draft is now complete. Draft signings are coming in fast and furious, and players are being assigned already, meaning that we will quickly get to see those draftees in minor league baseball. An announcement was also made that the Arizona Fall League will be back in play in 2021, which is great news for any minor league baseball fan, as viewing prospects just had another month-plus added to our viewing season! This week, we are exploring guys excelling in a few different “analytical” statistics, such as wRC+, FIP, and others.

Statistical Leaders (stats through July 24)

Overall

AVG – Thairo Estrada, AAA (SF), .385
OBP – Eli Wilson, A (Pit), .518
SLG – Taylor Motter, AAA (Col), .751
HR – Griffin Conine, A+/AA (Mia), 24
SB – Delvin Zinn, A+ (ChC), 42
IP – Caleb Kilian, A+/AA (SF), 80 2/3
ERA – Josh Lindblom, AAA (Mil), 1.14
WHIP – Carlos Luna, A+ (Mil), 0.69
SV – Miguel Aguilar, AAA (LAD), 15
K – Glenn Otto, AA/AAA (NYY), 115

AAA

AVG – Jamie Ritchie, Reno (Ari), .344
OBP – Hoy Park, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY), .475
SLG – Taylor Motter, Albuquerque (Col), .751
HR – Jo Adell, Salt Lake (LAA), Taylor Motter, Albuquerque (Col), and Brent Rooker, St. Paul (Min), 19
SB – Yonny Hernandez, Round Rock (Tex), 21
IP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 78 2/3
ERA – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 3.09
WHIP – Joe Ryan, Durham (TB)/St. Paul (Min), 0.79
SV – Miguel Aguilar, Reno (Ari), 15
K – Drew Anderson, Round Rock (Tex), 85

AA

AVG – Jose Miranda, Wichita (Min), .345
OBP – Marty Costes, Corpus Christi (Hou), .429
SLG – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), .620
HR – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 23
SB – Dairon Blanco, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 28
IP – Luis Reyes, Harrsburg (Was), 75 1/3
ERA – Janson Junk, Somerset (NYY), 1.46
WHIP – Caleb Killian, Richmond (SF), 0.90
SV – Colton Hock, Pensacola (Mia), 12
K – Glenn Otto, Somerset (NYY), 103

High-A

AVG – Justin Yurchak, Great Lakes (TB), .348
OBP – Justin Yurchak, Great Lakes (TB), .435
SLG – Alex McKenna, Asheville (Hou), .616
HR – Griffin Conine, Beloit (Mia), 23
SB – Delvin Zinn, South Bend (ChC), 42
IP – Matt Waldron, Fort Wayne (SD), 72 1/3
ERA – Jayden Murray, Bowling Green (TB), 1.72
WHIP – Jayden Murray, Bowling Green (TB), 0.69
SV – Oliver Garcia, Greensboro (Pit), 8
K – Seth Corry, Eugene (SF) and Jacob Lopez, Bowling Green (TB), 88

Low-A

AVG – Curtis Mead, Charleston (TB), .358
OBP – Edouard Julien, Fort Myers (Min), .490
SLG – Joe Gray Jr, Carolina (Mil), .632
HR – Juan Carlos Negret, Columbia (KC) and Orelvis Martinez, Dunedin (Tor), 18
SB – Jayce Easley, Down East (Tex), 39
IP – Karlo Seijas, Fredericksburg (Was), 71
ERA – Taj Bradley, Charleston (TB), 1.96
WHIP – Hyun-il Choi, Rancho Cucamonga (LAD), 0.79
SV – Vincent Timpanelli, Daytona (Cin) and Cam Robinson, Carolina (Mil), 9
K – Ryan Murphy, San Jose (SF), 105

Complex

AVG – Carlos Amaya, Athletics, and Adrian Pinto, Rockies, .00
OBP – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, .625
SLG – Francisco Garcia, Rockies, .826
HR – Aeverson Arteaga, Giants, 6
SB – Jonatan Clase, Mariners, 16
IP – Yordy Richard, Cardinals, 24
ERA – 24 with 0.00
WHIP – Miguel Segura, Brewers, 0.33
SV – Gabriel Hernandez, Angels, 6
K – Gabriel Aguilera, Reds, 35

Sorting through the weeds:

Juan Yepez, 1B/3B/OF – The Atlanta Braves signed Yepez out of Venezuela in 2014. The Cardinals acquired him in 2017 when the Braves needed to replace Freddie Freeman in their lineup and acquired Matt Adams from St. Louis. Yepez was signed as a third baseman, and he has has the arm to handle the position while also handling balls around him very well. He struggles coming in on balls, and his range to his glove side is lacking for a long-term future at the hot corner. The Cardinals have used Yepez some in left field this season simply to keep his bat in the lineup. While he’s not a guy with a 70 grade on his power, Yepez has a strong eye at the plate and has developed into a player that can tap into his power more often while also keeping his strikeout rate in check. His MLB future could still be cloudy, but he could have a future as a flexibile piece on the right team with a strong right-handed bat. Season line: .256/.365/.523, 199 AB, 14 HR, 27/48 BB/K.

Rudy Martin, OF – Martin is a story in perseverance. Martin was a 2014 draft pick out of high school in Mississippi by the Royals, and he’s remained with the organization throughout. Martin had a big debut in complex ball in 2015, but he really didn’t stick out at any time after that, even struggling to a .544 OPS in 2019 among three levels, which some thought should signal the end of his dream. Instead, the 5’7″, 160ish pound speedster showed that big dreams can be found in small packages. He overhauled his swing and has already equaled the most home runs he’s ever hit in a full minor league season. He’s still got double-plus raw speed, though his routes in center are much more refined now. His arm is fringe-average, which likely will push him to left field. With the changes to his swing, even at 25, Martin could have a Chone Figgins-light sort of run in the outfield for a team or two if given the chance. Season line: .325/.452/.485, 169 AB, 6 HR, 15 SB, 35/51 BB/K.

Glenn Otto, RHP – Otto had good size coming out of Rice, but he hadn’t really had an opportunity to start due to injury. The Yankees have had a history of developing similar guys and began their work with Otto after drafting him in 2018 in the 5th round. He has a mid-90s fastball, touching 98-99, that has excellent late movement that he can work at the top and bottom of the zone well along with a curve that’s really come along in his pro career and can easily grade plus if not better. Otto missed some time due to injuries, but his feel is excellent on his three pitches, but with the time he missed, the Yankees may choose to focus him as a reliever going forward now that he’s reached the doorstep of the big leagues with his big season this year. Season line: 75 2/3 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 17/115 BB/K.

Josh Winder, RHP – Winder is a great example of what a good training system and good team development can do for a player. The Twins drafted Winder out of Virginia Military Institute in the 7th round in 2018 with a whole lot of average-at-best grades on his pitches but a consistent delivery that should allow him to move quickly. Winder has tapped into his 6’5″ frame to dial up a tick more velocity, consistently working 92-95 in games in 2021 and touching 97 on the top end with excellent plane and good carry deep into games, something that previously was an issue. His slider and curve have both ticked up in their sharpness of break, both likely above-average pitches, while his change is at least an average offering as well. Winder works his whole collection well on the mound, keeping hitters off-balance and pounding the zone. Without a true “out” pitch, he has been prone to the long ball, but he certainly should project as a backend starter that can eat a lot of innings. Season line: 72 IP, 2.63 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 13/80 BB/K.

Jake Alu, 3B/2B – Alu was drafted out of Boston College by the Nationals in the 24th round of the 2019 draft. He’s ascended quickly in the system, opening 2021 in High-A and earning a promotion to Double-A to open July. He’s a guy without a true plus tool, but he’s allowing his average tools across the board to play up. The arm is fringy at third base, but plays well at second base, and his glovework at either has been excellent this season. With the Nationals looking for infield help around Trea Turner, Alu could provide at least a bit of assistance while other, more high-profile, prospects gain their MLB footing. Season line: .321/.368/.507, 221 AB, 7 HR, 11 SB, 13/49 BB/K.

Romy Gonzalez, SS – The White Sox plucked Gonzalez in the 18th round of the 2018 draft out of the University of Miami. Gonzalez played around the field for the Hurricanes, but he’s settled in at short in the White Sox system. He’s got above-average raw power and speed, and really shows the epitome of a three true outcome sort of guy offensively with some speed. With a capable glove and those qualities, he could work his way to the majors at the least, with a profile similar to former Brewers and White Sox shortstop (among others) Jose Valentin. His big-league future will hinge on his ability to continue producing power as he advances to the big leagues. Season line: .259/.345/.487, 228 AB, 15 HR, 17 SB, 27/74 BB/K.

Riley Greene, OF – While Bobby Witt Jr was the most dynamic prep player in the 2019 MLB draft, Greene was widely considered the best pure prep bat available in that year’s draft. The Tigers grabbed him with the fifth overall selection and he was pushed to Double-A with less than 100 at-bats of full-season ball under his belt as a professional. Riley has been consistent throughout the season for Erie, with a high strikeout rate being perhaps the only concern, though it’s remained under 30% throughout the season as his walk rate is consistently in double-digits. Greene offers high-end defensive instincts that could allow him to play in center, but he’s best suited in right field, where his above-average arm will play well and he can focus on hitting. Season line: .270/.360/.456, 248 AB, 10 HR, 11 SB, 33/82 BB/K.

Trey McGough, LHP – The Pirates drafted McGough out of Mount St. Mary’s in the 24th round of the 2019 draft. After pitching purely out of relief in his draft season, McGough has spent the majority of his time as a starter in 2021, starting all eight of his appearances for Altoona after he was promoted to Double-A. He works in the low-90s with his fastball and features a curve and slider that have both flashed above-average as a starter. McGough is aggressive in the zone with hitters, which has led him to be susceptible to getting hit when he’s not locating within the zone well, but his overall arsenal sets him up as a potential backend starter or a middle reliever that could go multiple innings. Season line: 60 1/3 IP, 3.13 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 14/50 BB/K.

Kutter Crawford, RHP – Crawford has one of the better names in the minor leagues, working his way up the Red Sox system since being drafted by Boston in the 16th round in 2017. Crawford was promoted to Triple-A Worcester this week, but he hasn’t made an appearance yet, so he works as a Double-A representative. Crawford has one plus pitch for sure with his cutter, but he’s really seen growth in all his pitches with work he’s done since being drafted to ensure his pitches tunnel well and his command is plus. His fastball is average to above-average, flashing better, with a change that flashes plus but is more consistently average to above-average as well. Crawford’s ability to repeat and command should allow him to eat innings as a backend starter or work well in the middle of a bullpen. Season line: 46 1/3 IP, 3.30 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 5/64 BB/K.

Noah Skirrow, RHP – The Phillies signed Skirrow as an undrafted free agent out of Liberty last summer. He has had some injury issues this year, but recently got his first Double-A start after earning a promotion. Skirrow is a guy whose arm still has a lot of projection due to a lack of mileage. His fastball has flashed better, but sits in the 92-94 range late in games with nasty movement and his breaking balls are definite plus pitches. Skirrow really needs a change-of-pace pitch, whether that be a changeup or another fastball variant like a cutter or split-finger pitch to keep hitters honest, but the raw tools are here for a potential mid-rotation starter or a backend reliever. Having already reached the upper minors shows the raw talent that is in his arm. Season line: 29 1/3 IP, 0.92 WHIP, 1.02 WHIP, 12/36 BB/K.

Blaine Crim, 1B – The Rangers drafted Crim out of Mississippi College in the 19th round in 2019. He’s not a prototype first baseman, standing just under 6′ tall and barely over 200 pounds, but he’s done nothing but hit as a pro. This season he’s among the minor league leaders in home runs while consistently getting on base as well. Crim’s a right-handed first baseman, so he’s behind the 8-ball as it is to make it, so he’ll have to go above and beyond in his production in order to get to the big leagues, but he’s produced at every stop so far. He’s likely earned a promotion soon to Double-A. Season line: .294/.364/.543, 245 AB, 17 HR, 19/56 BB/K.

Jesse Franklin V, OF – With just four picks in the 2020 draft, the Atlanta Braves selected three pitchers and one hitter. Franklin was that hitter. If it weren’t for health issues during his college time, Franklin very likely would have been a first-round pick last summer. He’s a high-instinct player with average to above-average tools across the board. He struggled out of the gate this season, but Franklin has been dynamic since June 1, posting a 1.012 OPS and hitting all 15 of his home runs on the year in that time. He’s likely in line for a promotion to Double-A before the season’s end. Franklin likely profiles as a corner outfielder and won’t probably compete for a batting title, but he has a solid eye at the plate that should allow for his other tools to play up. Season line: .246/.318/.522, 228 AB, 15 HR, 15 SB, 23/72 BB/K.

Luke Berryhill, C – Drafted by the Reds in the 13th round of the 2019 draft, Berryhill was traded to the Astros for Cionel Perez in January. Berryhill has an interesting background, as he’s a talented country music singer that has a potential future in music and is often mistaken for the son of former big leaguer Damon Berryhill due to his position on the field – so much so that it even states on his Twitter bio that he is not Damon’s son! Berryhill has his own legit skillset, though. Berryhill is a big, strong backstop whose bat is ahead of his glove, but he has raw tools that would indicate he could stick behind the dish. For a big guy, Berryhill moves well both behind the plate and in the field, as evidenced by his four stolen bases and a few glimpses running the bases where he went multiple bases on a single with ease. The Astros have some depth in backstops ahead of Berryhill, but having quality catching is never a bad thing, so he’ll likely be developed at the position as long as he can stick. Season line: .308/.424/.623, 122 AB, 10 HR, 4 SB, 20/40 BB/K.

Jack Cushing, RHP – Cushing was drafted in the 22nd round by the Athletics out of Georgetown. He struggled in his pro debut, primarily due to struggling with his control. Cushing works with an easy delivery and attacks with his low-90s fastball throughout the zone. He tends to pound the low part of the zone with his curve and change. Cushing will need either another movement pitch or another tick of velocity to work as a starter going forward, but the way he pounds the zone, he could serve as a fill-in starter or bulk reliever. Season line: 64 2/3 IP, 2.37 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 15/68 BB/K.

Mitchell Kilkenny, RHP – The Rockies drafted Kilkenny out of Texas A&M in the second round of the 2018 draft and he immediately had Tommy John surgery. He returned to the mound in 2019 and worked during the pandemic year to build arm strength, which has paid off in droves. While he’s old for his level, Kilkenny has blown away two A-ball levels this season so far, using a fastball that has worked into the mid-90s after sitting low-90s in college. His slider is a dynamic pitch that can grade plus as well as his change. Combining all three gives him a chance to dominate on a given day as long as he can keep the ball in the zone. His ability to locate vertically will be important to his future in the Rockies organization, where he could serve as a #3/4 starter. Season line: 69 2/3 IP, 2.58 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 13/72 BB/K.

Justin Bullock, RHP – The Brewers drafted Bullock out of high school in the 12th round in 2017. He’s seen his fastball tick up in his development, working with a mid-90s fastball that he can control at his best. He can reach back for more, but he can struggle to locate and get offline in his delivery when he forces the issue too much. Letting the game come to him allows his secondary pitches to play up as well, and it’s his breaking pitch that has become a definite “out” pitch for him, allowing him to potentially work as a mid-rotation arm going forward. His growth is very similar to the growth seen by Brandon Woodruff in the Milwaukee system. Season line: 63 1/3 IP, 2.98 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 14/70 BB/K.

Joshua Mears, OF – The Padres have a habit of grabbing at least one significantly tooled-up athlete in their draft each year and signing that player for overslot. Mears was a guy the Padres nabbed in the second round earlier than most thought he would be picked in order to sign him for a lower amount in order to afford Hudson Head in the third round in 2019. That certainly doesn’t take away anything from Mears’ tools as he has plenty to like in his profile. He has double-plus raw power in his muscular frame, but he’s also significantly athletic, allowing him to glide to balls in the outfield, though he’s best fit in right field with a fringe-plus arm suited for an ideal right field profile. His swing has some concerns that will need to be ironed out as he progresses up the system, but the raw power is obvious and Mears is willing to work a walk. Season line: .258/.403/.542, 190 AB, 13 HR, 8 SB, 35/85 BB/K.

Eddys Leonard, IF – Leonard was signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican in 2017, and he’s simply hit at every level he’s been at. Leonard really fits the “grinder” persona, a guy whose baseball “feel” and instincts will allow him to play ahead of his true tools at lower levels, but his challenge will come when he hits upper-level pitching. Leonard is only 6′ tall and not exactly muscle-bound on that frame, but he has a wide build that generates natural above-average raw power. Defensively, Leonard may not have the agility/speed to handle short, but he certainly has the glove and a good feel around the second base bag, so he could definitely handle second base defensively. His future role may be as a backup infielder that can handle his way around the infielder, but his level of high instincts can always lead to a guy who plays above his raw tools. Season line: .304/.401/.557, 237 AB, 13 HR, 5 SB, 29/66 BB/K.

Jhonkensy Noel, 3B/1B – The Indians had to wait until two weeks after the 2017 international signing period opened to sign Noel as he was not yet 16. He has impressive physicality that leads plenty to dream on what he could do at the plate. Noel’s exit velocities are among the best in the entire Cleveland system, and he doesn’t just hit hard ground balls, he puts the ball into the air with power. Noel has a strong arm and smooth glovework at third base, but Cleveland has been working him at first base due to a host of injuries that plagued his time in the minors thus far. If he can show himself healthy, he’s an above-average defender at the hot corner with the chance to be a force offensively, someone that could quickly prove to be among the top 3B prospects in the entire game. Season line: .347/.380/.653, 101 AB, 8 HR, 4/18 BB/K.

Jack Dashwood, LHP – Dashwood was drafted by the Angels in the 12th round in 2019 out of UC Santa Barbara. The big (6’6″, 240) lefty doesn’t have the stuff to match his size, coming with low-90s velocity and nothing that’s a real plus pitch. However, Dashwood’s size and his ability to pound the strike zone allows his average stuff to play up and keep hitters off-base in lower levels. He will need to do some work as he climbs the system to continue success, though he could transition to the bullpen and potentially find another couple ticks of velocity and coming from the left side, that could be enough for a big-league future. Season line: 55 2/3 IP, 3.56 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8/66 BB/K.

Taj Bradley, RHP – One of the youngest pitchers in the 2018 draft class, the Rays snapped up Bradley in the 5th round. He really showed out in 2019 in the Appy League and has shown no ill effects from the pandemic year, simply dominating Low-A and likely pushing for a promotion soon to Bowling Green, though that staff is loaded right now as well. Bradley leads with a fastball that now works into the upper-90s and sits 94-96 with plenty of movement. His breaker has gotten significantly better and his control of all his pitches is impressive. Bradley is still improving his secondary offerings, which makes his performance all the more impressive. The Rays will be patient with Bradley’s development, likely not pushing him to the upper minors until he’s ready. Season line: 59 2/3 IP, 1.96 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 17/72 BB/K.

Luis Montas, RHP – A late signee, the Mets signed Montas out of the Dominican July 2, 2019, just ahead of his 19th birthday. Because of the pandemic year, Montas was not able to make his pro debut until this year, when he was assigned to Low-A St. Lucie. Montas works out of the bullpen with a quick, easy delivery that is very fastball-focused. His breaking stuff flashes above average but needs work. There is plenty there to dream on for the Mets, especially for a guy thrown into the fire of full-season ball in his first pro assignment. Season line: 23 1/3 IP, 0.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 3 SV, 6/21 BB/K.

Aeverson Arteaga, SS – The largest bonus that the Giants handed out in 2019 at $1 million, Arteaga comes from an athletic family with a father that played professional basketball. He has incredible defensive skills that should allow him to stick at short, relying on his instincts as he’s an average-ish runner. At the plate, Arteaga may not be at the level of 2018 signee Marco Luciano, but he’s only a tick behind, which is an impressive prospect indeed. Arteaga at shortstop with his offensive line could be an elite performer in the future. Roster him now if you have a chance in your dynasty league! Season line: .359/.431/.750, 64 AB, 6 HR, 8/19 BB/K.

Reginald Preciado, SS/3B – The hulking Panamanian was signed by the Padres in 2019 before being part of the trade for Yu Darvish with the Cubs over the offseason. Preciado stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 190 pounds and is still growing at just 18 years old. He’s able to move well and handle shortstop right now, but he’s likely moving to third base long term only because his body will force the move. Preciado is a switch-hitter, and he tends to offer more power from the left side while offering more contact skills from the right side. Preciado is a rare athletic specimen and will be one to watch as he develops in the Cubs system. Season line: .379/.463/.534, 58 AB, 2 HR, 4 SB, 8/14 BB/K.

Yiddi Cappe, SS – Cappe delayed his signing to the most recent international signing period rather than be signed in 2019 in order to maximize the offers he could get, and he ended up the focus of the Marlins class. Cappe is long and lanky built 6’3″ shortstop that has plus defensive ability and should stick at the position. Offensively, his swing can be long and his swing path can get inconsistent with his long arms and legs, so he’ll need to work that out as he works his way off complex ball, but there’s definite upside for above-average power as he fills into his frame. Season line: .314/.366/.600, 35 AB, 2 HR, 2 SB, 4/4 BB/K.

Yaifer Perdomo, LHP – After an excellent pro debut in 2019 in the DSL, Perdomo comes stateside for the Blue Jays to open 2021. The lefty is small-framed at 5’10” and 155-165 pounds, and his stuff is led more by his ability to spin breaking pitches than velocity, but that works at this level. Perdomo can get off track when he attempts to reach back for too much velocity and flatten his breaking stuff while struggling to control his fastball. Season line: 16 IP 3.94 ERA, 1.06 ERA, 6/25 BB/K.

Gabriel Aguilera, RHP – The Reds signed Aguilera at 18 out of Venezuela. The 6′ righty is lean and known for a strong fastball without a ton of polish on his secondary stuff. He has been able to harness that stuff in Arizona so far, however, leading all complex pitchers in strikeouts since complex leagues opened until he earned a promotion this weekend to full-season ball in Daytona. He’s still yet to make an appearance there, so he works as a complex representative for this week. Season line: 21 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 4/35 BB/K.

Jean Pinto, RHP – Originally signed by the Angels out of Venezuela, Pinto was part of the trade package the Orioles received when trading Jose Iglesias. Though he’s under 6′, Pinto has flashed a big fastball, toughing 96-97 and sitting 91-93 consistently with the pitch. He works in a slider that flashes plus and is working on a change as well. Pinto’s delivery leads some to wonder if he could need some time in the lower levels in order to stick in the rotation or whether he could be pushed as a bullpen piece. It very likely will depend on how well the fastball/slider combo is performing whether the Orioles have the patience to let him develop as a starter. Season line: 20 IP, 1.80 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 4/28 BB/K.

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