Minor league baseball weekly cultivation for week ending August 7, 2021
We are now in the final full month of minor league baseball. August is the final month that has minor league action from start to finish, so we should enjoy every minute of it while we have it!
Statistical Leaders (stats through August 7)
AVG – Jose Ramos, Rk/A (LAD), .386
OBP – Skye Bolt, AAA (Oak), .479
SLG – Taylor Motter, AAA (Col), .759
HR – Griffin Conine, A+/AA (Mia), 29
SB – Eddy Diaz, A/A+ (Col), Jayce Easley, A (Tex), and Delvin Zinn, A+/AA (ChC), 43
IP – Matt Waldron, A+/AA (SD), 94 2/3
ERA – Ronnie Williams, AA (SF), 1.36
WHIP – Jovani Moran, AA/AAA (Min), 0.70
SV – Miguel Aguilar, AAA (LAD), 15
K – Cade Cavalli, A+/AA (Was), 133
AVG – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .371
OBP – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .466
SLG – Taylor Motter, Albuquerque (Col), .759
HR – Taylor Motter, Albuquerque (Col), 24
SB – Andrew Velazquez, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY), 26
IP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 89 1/3
ERA – Drew Anderson, Round Rock (Tex), 3.15
WHIP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 1.04
SV – Miguel Aguilar, Reno (Ari), 15
K – Aaron Ashby, Nashville (Mil), 98
AVG – Marty Costes, Corpus Christi (Hou), .332
OBP – Marty Costes, Corpus Christi (Hou), .436
SLG – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), .635
HR – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 28
SB – Dairon Blanco, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 30
IP – Juan Hillman, Akron (Cle), 89 1/3
ERA – Jake Eder, Pensacola (Mia), 1.86
WHIP – Konnor Pilkington, Birmingham (ChW)/Akron (Cle), 0.91
SV – Colton Hock, Pensacola (Mia), 12
K – Glenn Otto, Somerset (NYY), 103
AVG – Justin Yurchak, Great Lakes (TB), .356
OBP – Justin Yurchak, Great Lakes (TB), .446
SLG – Griffin Conine, Beloit (Mia), .587
HR – Griffin Conine, Beloit (Mia), 23
SB – Delvin Zinn, South Bend (ChC), 42
IP – Connor Lunn, Peoria (StL), 84 1/3
ERA – Jhony Brito, Hudson Valley (NYY), 2.57
WHIP – Antonio Velez, Beloit (Mia), 0.87
SV – Zack Hess, West Michigan (Det) and Chris Wright, Eugene (SF), 9
K – Anthony Veneziano, Quad Cities (KC), 98
AVG – Euribiel Angeles, Lake Elsinore (SD), .350
OBP – Anthony Volpe, Tampa (NYY), .455
SLG – Joe Gray Jr, Carolina (Mil), .632
HR – Orelvis Martinez, Dunedin (Tor), 19
SB – Jayce Easley, Down East (Tex), 43
IP – John Swanda, Inland Empire (LAA), 80
ERA – Taj Bradley, Charleston (TB), 1.76
WHIP – Hyun-il Choi, Rancho Cucamonga (LAD), 0.83
SV – Cam Robinson, Carolina (Mil), 12
K – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 121
AVG – Carlos Amaya, Athletics, .467
OBP – Carlos Mendoza, Tigers, .583
SLG – Francisco Garcia, Rockies, .786
HR – Aeverson Arteaga, Giants and Osiris Johnson, Marlins, 7
SB – Luis Durango, Indians, 19
IP – Trevor McDonald, Giants, 35 1/3
ERA – Four with 0.00
WHIP – Adrian Quintana, Mariners, 0.61
SV – Gabriel Hernandez, Angels, 7
K – Kelvin Caceres, Angels and Cristian Mena, White Sox, 38
Sorting through the weeds:
Cody Thomas, OF – The Dodgers drafted the big, athletic outfielder from the University of Oklahoma in the 13th round in 2016. Thomas has the ability to crush a baseball, but he also strikes out at a high rate. The A’s acquired him as part of a deal this February. Thomas has excellent instincts in the outfield and can handle center field at a passable level, so his big power could play off the bench at least. He’s already crushed plenty of baseballs this season and could find his way to the Oakland outfield, especially with the recent suspension news regarding Ramon Laureano. Season line: .289/.363/.665, 218 AB, 18 HR, 25/78 BB/K.
Kevin Smith, SS/3B – The Blue Jays drafted Smith in the fourth round in 2017 out of Maryland. Smith has always had a high baseball instinct level, but the power that he has shown as a pro has been surprising. This season has shown Smith capable at multiple infield positions as well as displaying additional plate discipline. The path to playing time in Toronto could be difficult, but he does have enough arm to work at either spot on the left side of the infield and good footwork at second base, so he could feasibly work alongside Cavan Biggio going forward as a multi-positional player whose bat is worthy of keeping in the lineup. Season line: .289/.375/.579, 280 AB, 18 HR, 14 SB, 38/78 BB/K.
Andre Jackson, RHP – Jackson was drafted in the 12th round in 2017 out of the University of Utah. He’s shown an excellent ability to handle inning loads on his frame, but Jackson really doesn’t have a single plus pitch, using a pair of fastballs, a curve, cutter, and a change that he keeps around the zone to keep hitters honest. While he’s had success with his repertoire, Jackson also has been a fly ball pitcher and home runs have been a struggle. Whether he’ll be able to keep this up at the big league level remains to be seen, but he has quality overall stuff. Season line: 68 1/3 IP, 3.29 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 22/78 BB/K.
Matthew Liberatore, LHP – Considered the top prep pitcher in his draft class, Liberatore fell to the Rays at 16th overall due to reported bonus demands, though he signed for less than $3.5 million. He showed very well for the Cardinals before he was part of the return in the deal that sent Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay. The Cardinals were aggressive with Liberatore this year, starting him in Triple-A after he’d only pitched in Low-A in his career. That inexperience has shown through a number of times this year as Liberatore has struggled through tough spots, giving up 16 home runs this year after allowing just two in 110 pro innings coming into the year. Liberatore works with a mid-90s fastball, a plus curve, and a pair of secondaries that flash above-average in his slider and change. Handling moments when he’s not got his top-shelf stuff will be something to watch with Liberatore, but he’s one of the top young lefties in the game. Season line: 71 2/3 IP, 5.15 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 19/70 BB/K.
MJ Melendez, C – Coming out of high school, Melendez was highly regarded as an elite receiver with a very good background as his father is a college coach. The Royals drafted him in the second round in 2017, and he showed well in his full-season debut in 2018, but like many Royals prospects, he struggled mightily at Wilmington in 2019. He put in obvious time that is showing up this year with an incredible power surge along with a much better ability to protect the zone, as evidenced by his strikeout rate nearly 10% lower than it has been at any point in his minor league career thus far. Salvador Perez is signed through 2025, so Melendez may not have a spot behind the plate with the Royals anytime soon, but he’ll find a lineup spot if he can continue hitting like this. Season line: .287/.374/.635, 293 AB, 28 HR, 43/76 BB/K.
Mark Vientos, 3B – An impressive two-way player coming out of high school, Vientos was selected by the Mets in the second round of the 2017 draft. He did some notable work during the pandemic year on his swing and pitch recognition. The results have been notable this year as Vientos is a legit top-100 talent at this point, and he’s certainly the guy that should be written in pen as the Mets’ third baseman of the future with an elite arm at third base and double-plus raw power that he is accessing in game this season. Season line: .279/.350/.601, 233 AB, 20 HR, 24/73 BB/K.
Mason Martin, 1B – The Pirates grabbed Martin out of high school in Washington in the 17th round in 2017. He’s been a three true outcome player since being drafted, ranking among the minor league leaders in home runs in 2019 when he hit 35 long balls. Martin has shown good power with plenty of swing and miss in Double-A this year. His future will rely on that power as he’s limited to first base defensively. Season line: .258/.330/.544, 287 AB, 19 HR, 25/112 BB/K.
Alan Rangel, RHP – The Braves signed Rangel out of Mexico in 2014, and he’s been the type of guy who looked destined to be a minor league organization filler type until he took a notable step forward in execution this season. The raw stuff really didn’t take a big step forward, as he works in the low-90s with his fastball primarily, with his curveball his best secondary offering. He has a solid change and excellent control, but he’s seen his fastball play up even better this season as his already excellent control has played up better with improved command this year. Season line: 75 2/3 IP, 3.93 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 23/99 BB/K.
Luis Medina, RHP – The Yankees signed Medina out of the Dominican in 2015. He’s always possessed a double-plus fastball and a curve that can flash plus and even double-plus. The changeup has upside as well, but being able to control all three pitches is a big issue for Medina and has been his biggest bugaboo throughout his minor league career. While he’s had one of the highest strikeout rates in the minor leagues this year, Medina will need to move to the bullpen if he’s unable to control his big stuff. Season line: 68 1/3 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 47/89 BB/K.
Drey Jameson, RHP – The Diamondbacks selected Jameson out of Ball State in the compensatory round in 2019. Jameson’s biggest hangup for scouts is his delivery, which has a few hitches along the way, worrying many that he won’t be able to repeat well enough to start. Jameson uses a plus fastball that can reach 98 along with a pair of breaking balls that at least flash plus and that he can manipulate. His change has really come forward this year as well. Whether he starts or relieves will depend on how he can handle wear and tear on his smallish frame with his delivery, but he’s passed every test thus far. Season line: 70 1/3 IP, 3.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 19/88 BB/K.
Jordan Qsar, OF – The Braves drafted Qsar in the 25th round out of Pepperdine in 2018. Qsar has a strong arm in the outfield and is a natural right fielder. Qsar was an excellent pitcher in college, and many thought his future was on the mound. He’s still raw in a lot of facets of hitting, but he’s taken a big step forward in tapping into his raw above-average power this season. At 25, he may be working toward a future as a backup outfielder at best, but he’s taken a step forward this season. Season line: .250/.366/.521, 236 AB, 16 HR, 13 SB, 38/91 BB/K.
Enmanuel Valdez, 2B/3B – Valdez was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Astros in 2015. Valdez has shown potential with the bat along the way, but this is the first year that he’s shown his plus power in-game. He’s got a big swing that has led to struggles with consistent contact, but when he does make contact, it’s hard. Valdez has enough arm to work at third base, but he’s probably best-suited at second defensively. He could work as a power-hitting reserve if he can keep up some of the power he’s shown so far. Season line: .240/.295/.513, 263 AB, 19 HR, 21/60 BB/K.
Jhailyn Ortiz, OF – The Phillies signed Ortiz out of the Dominican for a big $4 million bonus. He’s really been the same guy throughout his minor league time, showing big raw power, but also a long swing that leads to plenty of strikeouts and struggles with contact. Ortiz is a poor defender and runner, so accessing his power is his one way to the majors. He’s worked this year to be more patient and see more pitches at the plate, which has shown good results, but he’ll need to continue the progress shown this season as he advances into the upper minors. Season line: .262/.355/.510, 290 AB, 20 HR, 31/95 BB/K.
Ryan Murphy, RHP – The Giants’ final pick of the shortened 2020 draft out of Le Moyne, Murphy has done a ton more than most expected. He doesn’t have an elite fastball, working 90-92 with the ability to reach back for a bit more, but he has tremendous spin on his fastball, and he gets similarly excellent spin on his slider and change to keep hitters off-base. Murphy has a consistent, easy delivery that could allow him to work as a mid-rotation starter with a low-velocity fastball as long as he can locate the pitch and maintain the excellent spin on the pitch. How he performs as he advances to the upper minors will tell a lot about his future with the club. Season line: 81 1/3 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 20/124 BB/K.
Louie Varland, RHP – The Twins drafted local boy Varland out of Concordia College in St. Paul in the 15th round in 2019. He’s worked primarily as a starter this season, though the Twins know there’s a time limit on his stuff working, as he’s averaging less than five innings per appearance. Varland’s fastball only sits 88-93 and his breaking ball and change are both average pitches in a vacuum. He has some funk to his delivery that allows him to deceive a lineup once through, but that raw stuff likely would struggle multiple times through. Varland may have a future going forward in a bullpen as a multi-inning guy, but without added velocity and his secondaries jumping up in quality, he’s not going to be a starter as he gets to the upper levels and the majors. Season line: 69 IP, 1.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 25/98 BB/K.
Robinson Pina, RHP – Pina was signed by the Angels out of the Dominican in February of 2017 and has been working his way up the farm system ever since with success. He’s got the type of frame that you’d dream on, but he’s not been able to translate that to consistent success, primarily due to struggles with his control. His fastball and curve are both plus pitches when he’s locating them, and his change can flash average and better, but his control is still notably below-average. Pina could work as a potential reliever, but to continue progressing as a starter, he’ll need notable improvement in his control. Season line: 75 IP, 3.48 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 46/107 BB/K.
Dustin Harris, 1B/3B – The Athletics drafted Harris out of JuCo before trading him to the Rangers as part of the return for Mike Minor. Harris is more athletic than your typical first baseman, but that’s really his defensive home as he’s not a third baseman going forward as a professional. The bat will be what carries Harris, and he has impressive raw power that he’s put on display this year while also showing off notably improved plate discipline. If he can continue the improvements in zone recognition while continuing to access his power, the Rangers could have a future middle of the order hitter with some added fantasy appeal due to his potential to steal bases. Season line: .318/.396/.505, 283 AB, 11 HR, 22 SB, 34/49 BB/K.
Allan Cerda, OF – The Reds signed Cerda as an international free agent in 2017. Cerda was born in New York but established residency in the Dominican Republic to be signed in the international market. Physically well-built, Cerda has a traditional right field profile, with plus power and plus arm. He has a long swing, and that leads to plenty of strikeouts and a low contact rate, but he also walks at a double-digit rate as well. How well he can temper those strikeouts and access that power will determine his ability to succeed as he climbs the organizational ladder. Season line: .235/.355/.497, 187 AB, 10 HR, 24/73 BB/K.
Alberto Rodriguez, OF – The Blue Jays signed Rodriguez in 2017 out of the Dominican before trading him to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker. He was well-known before the signing period, but scouts had mixed opinions on him, and that’s really played out in pro ball for Rodriguez. He hasn’t translated his powerful build into game power, and his build really leads some to worry that he could be too thick to hold above-average speed as he matures. Defensively, he handles right field very well, and he has the arm for the position. Rodriguez has ticked up his ability to drive the ball to the gaps this season. If the Mariners can get him to transition that to over-the-fence power, they’d have a potential big league regular on their hands. As it is, he’s likely best suited as a fourth outfielder. Season line: .265/.368/.438, 272 AB, 6 hR, 9 SB, 43/78 BB/K.
Brandon Knarr, LHP – The Brewers signed Knarr out of the University of Tampa as an undrafted free agent last summer. Knarr had transferred to Tampa from Notre Dame, and he was on his way to a dominating spring that could have pushed him up draft boards before the season was ended due to COVID. Knarr stands just 5’10”, so there isn’t a lot of development left to his frame. Knarr works with a wide array of pitches, leading with a fastball that sits in the low-90s, though he also has a heavy sinker that sits a tick below in velocity and is a distinctly different shape. Add in a slider, curve, and a change, and Knarr can throw a wide selection of pitches, keeping hitters at a low level very off-base. How he handles advancing up the ladder will be interesting with his average to below-average stuff across the board. Season line: 70 IP, 3.99 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 31/96 BB/K.
Jaime Arias-Bautista, LHP – Cleveland signed the Fresno State lefty as an undrafted free agent last summer. He was a swingman until 2020 when he moved to the rotation full-time, but he didn’t get a chance to show himself as a starter. He opened the season in the bullpen and moved into the rotation for Lynchburg in July. Arias-Bautista works with a fastball in the low-90s that he locates very well. He uses the heater 2/3 of the time, working in his sweeping breaker and his change. He will also feature a looping curve that he works north and south in the middle of the zone as well. Without a true plus offering, Arias-Bautista has been prone to get hit hard, but when he can locate, he is very good for one time through the order, which could lead to a future as a multi-inning lefty. Season line: 65 1/3 IP, 4.27 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 13/82 BB/K.
Nick Davila, RHP – The Tigers signed Davila as an unsigned free agent last summer out of South Florida, where he had one season as a swingman. Davila has served as a swing guy in Low-A as well, making seven starts in his 21 appearances. Davila works 92-94 with his fastball and pairs that with a low-80s slider. He also has a change that he uses well as his third pitch. None of Davila’s stuff would grade above average, but when he commands it well, he attacks hitters and can be effective out of the bullpen. Season line: 64 IP, 3.52 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2 SV, 26/70 BB/K.
Owen Caissie, OF – Canadian Caissie was drafted by the Padres in the second round of the 2020 draft. He has an impressive raw frame at 6’4″ and just under 200 pounds. The Cubs acquired him as part of the return in the Yu Darvish deal this offseason. Caissie has incredible natural raw power, easily graded as plus raw, with some scouts tagging him with double-plus raw power. He is more than just a “swing hard” guy, though, as he works at his craft, developing an impressive feel for the barrel and zone recognition. He’s got some raw tools defensively, but there is a lot of work to do there. The bat is definitely where Cubs fans can dream with Caissie. Season line: .351/.485/.675, 77 AB, 6 HR, 20/27 BB/K.
Osiris Johnson, OF/2B – Johnson was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft as a raw athlete from high school in California. The Marlins started him in Low-A ball this year, and he struggled mightily with the assignment, both offensively and defensively. Once the complex leagues opened, the Marlins brought Johnson back to complex ball to make a position change, moving Johnson off the dirt and into the outfield in center field, where his natural athleticism has shown well and he’s impressed scouts. Not only has he shown tremendous growth defensively, but he has also worked with coaches at the complex to calm down his approach at the plate, being more patient and hunting down pitches he can drive. He’s unleashing his plus raw power more often in games at this point, which has allowed him to be among the leaders in complex ball in power statistics. He could work his way back up to full-season this month at some point. Season line: .202/.277/.390, 223 AB, 9 HR, 5 SB, 21/76 BB/K.
Coby Mayo, 3B – Baseball America has featured the young Orioles third sacker this week after an impressive start to his career. The Orioles took a risk in last year’s draft when they took Mayo in the fourth round and paid him more than a million dollars over slot value to buy him out of his commitment to Florida. That investment has paid off as Mayo’s double-plus raw power has shown through, but he’s also already made notable adjustments to his approach to allow him to consistently get his barrel to balls in the zone and recognize the parameters of the zone. He’s not going to wow anyone with his speed, and he will need to work hard at his body to ensure he can remain at third base, but his big arm should certainly fit there as well. He’s one to watch as he could move up rankings quickly as he gets to full-season ball. Season line: .347/.453/.597, 72 AB, 4 HR, 6 SB, 12/13 BB/K.
Victor Juarez, RHP – The Rockies dropped $500,000 on Juarez out of Mexico in July of 2019. He’s making his pro debut this year and has seen a big of his projection come to fruition already, growing into a low-90s fastball that he can control well. Juarez has very good handle on his secondary pitches as well. The Rockies hope Juarez can continue filling into his frame further and potentially work into the mid-90s to go with his excellent control, giving him a mid-rotation projection. Season line: 14 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 1/22 BB/K.
Jedixson Paez, RHP – The Red Sox signed Paez out of Venezuela this past January. He saw tremendous growth in his raw stuff from showcases to signing, jumping from throwing low-80s to low-90s in that time. He has good feel for a change and pounds the strike zone with all his stuff. Development of breaking pitches and potential further growth in his fastball will determine his future, but Paez is off to a nice start in his pro debut in the DSL. Season line: 16 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 3/22 BB/K.
Chih-Ting Wang, LHP – Wang became the first Taiwanese amateur signed by the Royals when they gave him a $240,000 bonus in August 2017. He worked out of the bullpen his first two pro seasons, and he’s being stretched out this season after the pandemic year. Wang sits in the 88-91 range with his fastball and has a good feel with his change and a breaking ball that he can manipulate a couple of ways. Control has been the biggest hangup for Wang thus far, and without an overpowering fastball, he’ll struggle in full-season ball without improvement in that area. Season line: 23 2/3 IP, 3.04 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 11/33 BB/K.