Minor league baseball weekly cultivation for week ending August 28, 2021
The minor league baseball season has less than a month of games remaining for those leagues with playoffs, and even less than that in the complex leagues. This week will see some September callups, though the changes to rosters will keep that number lower than previous years, so many guys will still be part of their minor league team’s playoff push. For those who love minor league baseball and seeing guys get a chance to play every day rather than a token call up to sit on the bench, it’s a good thing, though for some guys that one call may be their only big league experience, so there is some drawback! Let’s get into this week’s cultivation…
Statistical Leaders (stats through August 28)
AVG – Skye Bolt, AAA (Oak), .387
OBP – Carlos Mendoza, Rk/A (Det), .510
SLG – Taylor Motter, AAA (Col), .759
HR – Griffin Conine, A+/AA (Mia), 34
SB – Jayce Easley, A (Tex), 60
IP – Bryce Elder, A+/AA/AAA (Atl), 112 2/3
ERA – Anderson Pilar, A (Col), 1.19
WHIP – Jayden Murray, A+/AA (TB), 0.67
SV – Ronel Blanco, AAA (Hou) and Jerson Ramirez, A/A+ (Cle), 17
K – Ryan Murphy, A/A+ (SF), 156
AVG – Henry Ramos, Reno (Ari), .364
OBP – Taylor Motter, Albuquerque (Col), .460
SLG – Taylor Motter, Albuquerque (Col), .759
HR – Aderlin Rodriguez, Toledo (Det), 25
SB – Vidal Brujan, Durham (TB), 34
IP – Jesus Reyes, Syracuse (NYM), 104
ERA – Kyle Wright, Gwinnett (Atl), 3.31
WHIP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 1.05
SV – Ronel Blanco, Sugar Land (Hou), 17
K – Jackson Kowar, Omaha (KC), 115
AVG – Otto Lopez, New Hampshire (Tor), .330
OBP – Austin Martin, New Hampshire (Tor)/Wichita (Min), .418
SLG – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), .628
HR – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 28
SB – Brewer Hicklen, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 34
IP – Juan Hillman, Akron (Cle), Brady Feigl, Midland (Oak), and Tommy Henry, Amarillo (Ari), 102 1/3
ERA – Max Meyer, Pensacola (Mia), 1.97
WHIP – Konnor Pilkington, Birmingham (ChW)/Akron (Cle), 0.94
SV – Colton Hock, Pensacola (Mia), 15
K – Tommy Henry, Amarillo (Ari), 121
AVG – Francisco Urbaez, Dayton (Cin), .333
OBP – Patrick Frick, Everett (Sea), .433
SLG – Griffin Conine, Beloit (Mia), .587
HR – Andy Pages, Great Lakes (LAD), 25
SB – Delvin Zinn, South Bend (ChC), 42
IP – Connor Lunn, Peoria (StL), 103 1/3
ERA – Quinn Priester, Greensboro (Pit), 2.86
WHIP – Antonio Velez, Beloit (Mia), 0.88
SV – Chris Wright, Eugene (SF), 12
K – Anthony Veneziano, Quad Cities (KC), 120
AVG – Euribiel Angeles, Lake Elsinore (SD), .343
OBP – Braxton Martinez, Inland Empire (LAA), .445
SLG – Braxton Martinez, Inland Empire (LAA), .578
HR – Juan Carlos Negret, Columbia (KC), 21
SB – Jayce Easley, Down East (Tex), 60
IP – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 98
ERA – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 2.76
WHIP – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 0.94
SV – Cam Robinson, Carolina (Mil) and Robinson Hernandez, Fresno (Col), 12
K – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 143
AVG – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, .432
OBP – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, .545
SLG – Osiris Johnson, Marlins, .646
HR – Yosy Galan, Rangers, 9
SB – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, 34
IP – Trevor McDonald, Giants, 51
ERA – Joel Diaz, Mets, 0.00
WHIP – Jose Cedeno, Nationals, 0.60
SV – Luis Amoroso, Rockies, 10
K – Yaifer Perdomo, Blue Jays, 59
Sorting through the weeds:
BJ Boyd, OF – Boyd’s story is absolutely incredible. The A’s drafted him out of high school in the fourth round in 2012, and he worked his way up to AAA, but never got a major league call in 2018. Boyd chose to pursue an opportunity to play college football while he still had the chance and left baseball after the 2018 season. In May, the Twins signed Boyd from an independent baseball team, and he’s had his best minor league season, potentially earning a late-season look with the big league club this year. Boyd is athletic, though he’s built like a fullback, so he’s not a guy that has plus speed. He reworked his swing and has tapped into his natural strength for more home run power without sacrificing contact this year, and he’s an average defender. Season line: .311/.368/.533, 270 AB, 15 HR, 8 SB, 22/53 BB/K.
Jake McCarthy, OF – A guy who has earned his way to a major league promotion this week, McCarthy was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks with the 39th overall pick in the 2018 draft. Before he was called up, he was one of two players in the minor leagues this season who had double-digit totals in doubles, triples, and home runs offensively. McCarthy is an average defender who plays above average due to excellent instincts in the field. While he has good feel at the plate, he has more swing and miss than a guy who really has average to above-average power can live with. He has above-average speed and the ability to drive the ball into gaps. Season line: (MLB) .250/.333/.375, 8 AB, 1/5 BB/K; (minors) .253/.332/.500, 328 AB, 15 HR, 29 SB, 37/95 BB/K.
Ryan Pepiot, RHP – Pepiot was drafted by the Dodgers out of Butler in the third round of the 2019 draft. Many were very big fans of how quickly Pepiot could move as a reliever, but he’s shown that he has a definite future as a starter. His fastball sits 94-96 touching 98, a cutter/slider hybrid that works around 90 and has wicked action, and a double-plus changeup that may be the best change in the minor leagues. Pepiot hasn’t thrown his curve really at all this season, but he does have a depth curve with a 1-to-7 shape. The three-pitch mix could have Pepiot as an absolutely dominant reliever, but as he works innings on his arm and sequences his pitches, the change could allow him to be a very impressive piece of a rotation. Season line: 83 1/3 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 38/106 BB/K.
Ian McKinney, LHP – The Cardinals originally drafted McKinney out of high school back in 2013. Seattle signed him as a minor league free agent before the 2019 season. McKinney has never really had big velocity, working in the upper-80s to lower-90s, topping out around 94. His changeup is his best pitch, and he attempts to work in multiple breaking balls with varying degrees of success. McKinney has presence and poise on the mound and is willing to attack hitters, but without a big fastball, he relies on his left-handedness to get by. He’s likely an up-and-down guy at best or a long-relief type if he can break through. Season line: 81 2/3 IP, 4.85 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 42/97 BB/K.
Justin Foscue, 2B – Many were surprised last summer to see Foscue’s name come off the board to the Rangers as the 14th overall selection in the first round. He’s shown the Rangers to be forward-thinking with his performance in his first pro season. Foscue was an advanced hitter coming out of Mississippi State with questions on his defense. Foscue’s biggest supporters compare him positively to Jeff Kent, and watching his swing and his defensive play, there’s a lot of similarity. Foscue isn’t going to win a Gold Glove at the keystone, but he also likely won’t hurt his team there while his bat could be among the best in the game at the position. He struggled some at Double-A since his promotion, but he could get chances in 2022 to earn his way to the majors by the end of the season. Season line: .277/.372/.609, 184 AB, 15 HR, 20/59 BB/K.
Kyle Stowers, OF – Considered an advanced college hitter coming out of Stanford, the Orioles plucked Stowers in the competitive balance round B of the 2019 draft. Stowers has been noted for swinging out of his shoes, and it can lead to high strikeout rates, though it certainly leads to the ball jumping off his bat when he makes contact as has been seen this year. Stowers is an above-average defender in the outfield with a plus arm that could play in either corner. Stowers will play most of 2022 in the upper minors before likely getting a late-season look in the majors, but he could have a long run in Baltimore as a starting outfielder starting in 2023. Season line: .278/.385/.516, 345 AB, 20 HR, 6 SB, 59/131 BB/K.
Griffin Conine, OF – The son of Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine, Griffin was drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round in 2018 and acquired by the Marlins in exchange for Jonathan Villar. While his father was a .285 career hitter that hit 214 career home runs in 7782 plate appearances, Griffin is much more of a three true outcomes hitter. He has legit double-plus raw power, but his swing is long and susceptible to swing and miss at a high level. He has typically walked at a high rate as well. Conine is not a stellar defender, likely best suited as a future DH. This season, however, he is leading all of the minor leagues in home runs, which would be an impressive feather in his cap in his development. Season line: .226/.342/.559, 349 AB, 34 HR, 54/155 BB/K.
Jayden Murray, RHP – As many times as I’ve considered mentioning Murray, I was astounded that I’ve not had him in this section yet this year. Murray was a 23rd round draft pick by the Rays in 2019 out of Dixie State in Utah. Murray is not a guy with an elite fastball, though his fastball plays up due to his ability to locate throughout the zone and spin the ball, working 90-94, touching 96-97 at the top end. Murray has an elite curveball that he also locates well, and he has mixed in an offspeed pitch, though he’s primarily focused on two pitches. The two-pitch dominance and his susceptibility to home runs could make life as a starter difficult, but the curve and the potential increase in velocity moving into the bullpen could allow Murray to be an elite reliever in multiple-inning stints. Season line: 92 IP, 1.96 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 16/89 BB/K.
Shawn Semple, RHP – Semple was drafted by the Yankees in the 11th round in 2017 out of the University of New Orleans with a history of injury that clouded an impressive raw arm. Those injury concerns have kept Semple from really asserting himself as a prospect during his time in the Yankees system. He has never had an elite velocity fastball, though his 92-94 MPH fastball has been incredibly effective throughout his career due to the ride the pitch gets up in the zone. He then works with a pair of above-average breaking balls and an average changeup. There are a host of impressive young arms in the Yankees system, so Semple will need to get a shot to prove he can be a future starter, but he could also provide value in a similar way to how Chad Green has for the club out of the bullpen. Season line: 98 IP, 2.85 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 27/117 BB/K.
Chris Murphy, LHP – The Red Sox drafted Murphy out of the University of San Diego in the sixth round in 2019. Murphy works with a fastball that works 91-94 and tops at 95-96 with plenty of swing and miss up in the zone. He has a plus change and a pair of fringe-average breaking pitches that he sequences well. Without an elite fastball or breaking pitch, Murphy has seen plenty of hard-hit balls, and he is likely best suited as a backend starter or long relief/middle relief type from the left side. Season line: 90 IP, 4.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 30/113 BB/K.
Lolo Sanchez, OF – Kevin “Lolo” Sanchez was signed by the Pirates out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2015. He has been an attractive player in many prospecting circles throughout his minor league career, but he’s never really been able to put together his raw power and his raw athleticism at the same time. He’s altered his swing plenty, and that’s never really allowed him to be comfortable in the box, but this year, he’s seemingly comfortable and making loud contact, though it’s still definitely a pull-heavy approach as he’s always shown. How this will work for Sanchez as he reaches the upper minors remains to be seen, though he is still 22 years old this season and has time to work his way to the majors before he hits his mid-20s with a strong 2022. Season line: .255/.374/.441, 306 AB, 14 HR, 28 SB, 50/66 BB/K.
Yasel Antuna, SS – Antuna was a top signee in the Nationals’ 2016 international free agent class out of the Dominican Republic. He’s had Tommy John surgery and missed plenty of time, and in that time his physicality has changed from a fringe shortstop to a guy who really should be a third baseman long-term. He’s physically stronger and can drive the ball very well, though he’s struggled to have consistent contact from both sides of the plate. Antuna could use a full year in Double-A and a full year in Triple-A, but that’s not been the Nationals’ history with hitting prospects, as the organization has typically pushed prospects, for better or worse. Season line: .243/.322/.414, 350 AB, 12 HR, 4 SB, 40/88 BB/K.
Jaylen Palmer, IF/OF – The Mets drafted the Flushing, New York, native in the 22nd round of the 2018 draft. Palmer is incredibly athletic, and he used that impressive raw speed to earn a promotion to High-A mid-season. Though Palmer has what should ideally be an ideal frame for developing power at 6’4″ and 210 pounds, he’s never been able to consistently tap into the power that he shows during batting practice. In the field, Palmer has a strong arm, though he’s struggled with his glovework at third base. He’s been worked at both second and third this year, though most of his work has been in the outfield. Palmer is barely 21 now, so he has time to develop, certainly, but his impact will depend on his ability to tap into his raw power. Season line: .262/.367/.383, 321 AB, 3 HR, 28 SB, 51/117 BB/K.
Misael Tamarez, RHP – The Astros signed Tamarez out of the Dominican in March of 2019. He was an older signee and got immediately into pro ball, but he was very fastball-focused that season. The heater is a 92-94 MPH offering, topping out at 95, but it really has electric life up in the zone. He features a plus change and a developing breaking ball that can flash plus one day and completely have no feel the next. Tamarez seems to get more comfortable on the mound every time out, and he could be a guy that explodes in the next year as he gets to the upper minors, especially as he develops a breaking pitch further. Season line: 58 2/3 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 30/86 BB/K.
Colin Peluse, RHP – The A’s drafted Peluse out of Wake Forest in the 9th round of the 2019 draft. Peluse really worked hard over the pandemic year, and his stuff ticked up in response, with his fastball working now at 93-97 and touching 98-99 with a slider and changeup both consistently working above-average and frequently showing plus. Peluse has a high floor as a reliever utilizing a three-pitch mix, but with the development of the pitches that he’s seen this year, he could find himself as a future starter in the Oakland system. Season line: 83 1/3 IP, 3.67 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 20/89 BB/K.
Eduardo Salazar, RHP – The Reds signed Salazar in March of 2017 out of Venezuela. He was already 18 when he signed, turning 19 before he debuted as a pro. He worked up to full-season ball in 2019 before the pandemic year, but the time off has really shown well for Salazar. He is consistently showing plus fastballs, with 93-96 MPH fastballs, touching 97-98 along with a slider that has improved and has strong bite along with an average change. Salazar works with above-average location, though he can get in trouble nibbling the edges and end up hanging a pitch that gets hit. As an older prospect when he was initially signed, Salazar likely will be judged quickly on his development, but he’s got the ability to move quickly in 2022 as a reliever or spend the whole year in the upper minors as a starter and potentially work as a backend starter. Season line: 98 IP, 3.49 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 32/107 BB/K.
Ben Malgeri, OF – The Tigers drafted Malgeri out of Northeastern in the 18th round this summer and have seen him already find his way to full-season ball. Malgeri is a strong hitter that is physically developed, which allowed him to move quickly, but how he will hold up as he gets further up the system will be interesting to watch. Malgeri can play all three outfield spots and offers average power and speed, giving him at least the potential for a fourth/fifth outfield role, with the chance to be even more if he can show he can handle big-time pitching once he gets to the upper minors. Season line: .323/.407/.495, 99 AB, 3 HR, 4 SB, 9/23 BB/K.
Alexander Ramirez, OF – Ramirez was signed by the Angels out of the Dominican in August of 2018. He was one of the youngest members of that summer’s class. He’s strong and has an explosive frame at 6’2″ and ~200 pounds, but he’s also got plenty of quick-twitch speed as well. Ramirez flashes the ability to stick in center field, though his arm will allow him to be an asset defensively if he moves to an outfield corner. On offense, Ramirez has a quick swing that allows him to get to nearly anything, but he also trusts that swing plenty, and is aggressive, attempting to attack outside the zone often. Ramirez does walk plenty, so once he learns to trust his eye and attack based on his eye and not his swing, he could explode as a prospect. Season line: .257/.374/.478, 136 AB, 5 HR, 3 SB, 22/55 BB/K.
Drew Romo, C – Considered the top prep catcher in an impressive class of them in the 2020 draft, Romo was selected by the Rockies with the 35th overall pick. Defensively, Romo is considered absolutely elite, and he has been considered so since the first scouts had a chance to see him don the tools of ignorance. With most high school catchers, the big issue is ever developing the bat to go with the glove, and Romo has already shown better than most would have expected in that facet. He’s a switch-hitter that has really cut down on his swing path to achieve better contact rates and use his athleticism to create more hits. This may limit his fantasy upside as most teams won’t let a catcher steal often, but he could be a guy with a top-level batting average and high-end doubles numbers with his approach in Colorado. His defense could allow him to move quickly through the system, so be wary not to get concerned about any failings of his bat as he advances as the team will likely trade those for the defense advancing as he moves up toward the majors. Even Yadier Molina was barely playable as an offensive player, his first 1,000 major league plate appearances, with a 64 OPS+. While I’m not directly comparing Romo and Yadi defensively, he’s got that level of defensive skill that his team will be comfortable living with less bat for a year or two as he adapts to the majors once he arrives. Season line: .319/.349/.458, 273 AB, 6 HR, 17 SB, 16/47 BB/K.
Wil Jensen, RHP – The Giants signed Jensen as an undrafted free agent last summer out of Pepperdine. Jensen has a repeatable delivery that allows him to control his entire pitch offering, though that repertoire really doesn’t have any single pitch that is plus. His fastball works 90-94 with late movement, his slider and changeup are average pitches, and his curve is fringe-average but plays up due to location. Jensen isn’t a guy that projects as a frontline guy without a significant jump in velocity across all his stuff, but he has a comfortable backend rotation projection that will likely get into the upper minors at some point in 2022. Season line: 97 2/3 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 22/102 BB/K.
Trent Palmer, RHP – Palmer graduated from high school in Minnesota and found his way to warm Jacksonville University, only to be drafted by the Blue Jays in the third round last summer. He made his pro debut with Dunedin this summer. The righty has a thick build that he will have to watch so it doesn’t hinder his ability to repeat his delivery along the way. Palmer works with a four-seam fastball that runs 94-97, a sinker that runs 92-95, a slider in the mid-80s, and a split-change that comes in the low-80s. With a very repeatable delivery at this point, Palmer has the chance to work as a mid-rotation arm with a host of average to above-average offerings. His biggest issue right now is simply command and control on those offerings as he never had a full season as a starter at the college and is developing some of his pitches on the fly as he’s also learning how to handle the rigors of a starter’s workload. Season line: 46 IP, 3.33 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 36/58 BB/K.
Dionys Rodriguez, RHP – Signed out of the Dominican in May of 2018, Rodriguez has really jumped into the consciousness of Cardinals fans and prospectors this season due to his impressive pitching performance. He began the year in the Palm Beach bullpen, but he’s transitioned to the rotation and continued to throw well. Rodriguez offers a fastball that runs up to 97 and sits 92-95, a cutter, a slider, and a seldom-used changeup. The cutter is probably his best pitch, with many scouts putting a pure plus grade on it now, while others give it a future plus grade. He’s shown the ability to control his fastball and cutter well, but he also has a habit of hanging his slider and “aiming” his changeup, which allows him to get hit more than his raw stuff would suggest. A quality delivery should allow for Rodriguez to develop as a mid-rotation starter as long as he can continue progress with his pitches. Season line: 48 2/3 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 16/65 BB/K.
Cristian Hernandez, SS – Considered by many scouts as the top player available in the most recent international class, the Dominican shortstop signed with the Cubs. Hernandez has the frame that might lead to him moving off short eventually, but his instincts play very well right now and his fringe-plus arm allows him to make short work for now. The Cubs started him in the Dominican, and word from one scout friend who’s seen him in action is that he absolutely stands out on the field for his raw talent. Said scout explained that there’s a “lot of room to grow” in Hernandez’s frame, but he could see the current swing producing legit plus to double-plus big-league power when he reaches physical maturity. For a 17-year-old, the reports are definitely glowing, and he’s a guy that many in Chicago should be tracking as he comes stateside in 2022. Season line: .264/.377/.402, 87 AB, 2 HR, 13 SB, 16/27 BB/K.
Alexeis Azuaje, IF – The Phillies signed Azuaje out of Venezuela in 2018 as a lean, speedy, undersized infielder. He’s had questions about his eventual defensive fit from the get-go. The Phillies have worked significantly with Azuaje’s swing from his pre-signing to current and smoothed it out significantly, which has allowed him to have some legit above-average raw power from the right side and a smoother stroke from both sides of the plate. Azuaje still has the same raw speed, and his altered swing allows his bat to get through the zone quicker, allowing him to foul off pitches that once were swing-and-miss for him. The defensive questions remain, and he might be best fit for second base or center field long-term, but there’s definitely something to watch here. Season line: .320/.433/.680, 25 AB, 2 HR, 2/1 BB/K.
Richard Paz, C – Paz’s father was an infielder that played 10 seasons in the minors for six organizations. He was born during his father’s one season in the Pirates organization, making his birthplace Altoona, though he was an international signee by Cleveland in 2017 as part of an incredibly strong class that could end up shaping the future of Cleveland baseball to come. Paz is severely undersized at 5’7″ and 150 pounds, and there’s not been a lot of thump in his bat previously, but work during the pandemic year on his swing and added strength into his frame have led to an impressive performance thus far in complex league play. Behind the plate, Paz is an above-average defender with an average arm. There is some discussion about a potential move to second base or left field to develop Paz as a super-utility player, but that hasn’t been done yet. If the bat keeps playing, his size won’t be an issue, regardless of his position. Season line: .394/.482/.697, 66 AB, 5 HR, 9/11 BB/K.
Patricio Aquino, RHP – A pop-up prospect in the Dominican this year, Aquino signed with the Brewers in January. Though older than a typical Latin signee, he has a lot of the raw tools, including an impressive fastball and breaking pitch that he could build on. Early returns have shown him dominating in the DSL with the pitches, but he’s also struggled with control, so how he is able to harness his stuff and whether he can develop a third offering will determine how far Aquino can go in the Brewers system. Season line: 24 2/3 IP, 0.73 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 14/35 BB/K.
Tommy Sommer, LHP – The White Sox drafted Sommer in the 10th round this past summer out of Indiana. Sommer fits the profile of a college lefty with a low-90s fastball and a kitchen sink of offspeed offerings. In college, I liked his cutter a lot, but he’s not used that much as a pro thus far, focusing on command and control with his fastball and changeup. Sommer is a guy that many likely would pass over as a senior sign, and he likely doesn’t have frontline starter upside, but the secondary options are intriguing enough that he could work as a backend starter/swingman type from the left side if he can show the control he’s exhibited as a pro thus far. Season line: 13 IP, 2.77 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 3/17 BB/K.
Elvis Saba, RHP – The Padres signed Saba out of the Dominican in February as an older Latin signee, signing just before he turned 21. Saba has been fastball heavy thus far, but the results have been very impressive, allowing him to move stateside already after making his pro debut in the DSL in June. Saba is a small-framed guy with a fastball that I’ve heard reports on in the low-90s with excellent late movement, but the reports on his secondaries have them each at below-average grades. Saba’s already 21, but in his first year in the Padres organization, he’s already shown impressive control/command that could lead to a future relief role. Season line: 18 1/3 IP, 2.95 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 2/21 BB/K.