Minor league baseball weekly cultivation for week ending September 4, 2021
The minor league baseball calendar has flipped to September. Now as the leaves begin to change, many enjoy a walk through the beauty of nature during this season. That’s the theme this week – hitters that can take walks and pitchers that avoid them – as we sort through the weeds later, but first our look at minor league baseball’s leaders.
Statistical Leaders (stats through September 4)
AVG – Adrian Pinto, Rk (Col), .413
OBP – Gabe Moncada, Rk (Sea), .530
SLG – Abimelec Ortiz, Rk (Tex), .786
HR – Griffin Conine, A+/AA (Mia) and MJ Melendez, AA/AAA (KC), 35
SB – Jayce Easley, A (Tex), 67
IP – Bryce Elder, A+/AA/AAA (Atl), 116 2/3
ERA – Taj Bradley, A (TB), 1.96
WHIP – Jayden Murray, A+/AA (TB), 0.71
SV – Five with 17
K – Cade Cavalli, A+/AA/AAA (Was), 158
AVG – Henry Ramos, Reno (Ari), .371
OBP – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .460
SLG – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .759
HR – Carlos Perez, Las Vegas (Oak) and Ryan McBroom, Omaha (KC), 27
SB – Vidal Brujan, Durham (TB), 34
IP – Jesus Reyes, Syracuse (NYM), 106 1/3
ERA – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 3.40
WHIP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 1.05
SV – Ronel Blanco, Sugar Land (Hou) and Kaleb Ort, Worcester (Bos), 17
K – Jackson Kowar, Omaha (KC), 115
AVG – Jonathan Aranda, Montgomery (TB), .336
OBP – Jonathan Aranda, Montgomery (TB), .417
SLG – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), .628
HR – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 28
SB – Brewer Hicklen, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 38
IP – Noah Zavolas, Biloxi (Mil), 107 2/3
ERA – Max Meyer, Pensacola (Mia), 2.30
WHIP – Konnor Pilkington, Birmingham (ChW)/Akron (Cle), 0.95
SV – Colton Hock, Pensacola (Mia), 17
K – Tommy Henry, Amarillo (Ari), 128
AVG – Ismael Munguia, Eugene (SF), .315
OBP – Spencer Horwitz, Vancouver (Tor), .403
SLG – Matt Fraizer, Greensboro (Pit), .562
HR – Andy Pages, Great Lakes (LAD), 26
SB – Delvin Zinn, South Bend (ChC), 42
IP – Bryan Hoeing, Beloit (Mia), 109
ERA – Quinn Priester, Greensboro (Pit), 2.67
WHIP – Eduardo Salazar, Dayton (Cin), 1.15
SV – Chris Wright, Eugene (SF), 13
K – Anthony Veneziano, Quad Cities (KC), 125
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), 22
SB – Jayce Easley, Down East (Tex), 67
IP – John Swanda, Inland Empire (LAA), 104 1/3
ERA – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 2.76
WHIP – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 0.94
SV – Robinson Hernandez, Fresno (Col), 14
K – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 156
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, 56
ERA – Joel Diaz, Mets, 0.00
WHIP – Jose Cedeno, Nationals, 0.58
SV – Luis Amoroso, Rockies, 10
K – Esmerlin Vinicio, Giants, 63
Sorting through the weeds:
Nick Plummer, OF – The Cardinals plucked Plummer out of high school in Michigan in the first round of the 2015 draft. As a cold-weather kid that was also a pop-up prospect in that year’s draft, many felt he might be a slow burn development project, but injuries and the pandemic year made that burn take even longer. He worked on his swing over the pandemic year, and he’s been able to access his raw above-average power more in-game now and his patience at the plate has shown through as well. Defensively, despite his compact, thick build, Plummer can handle center field well, but his fringe-average arm might make left field his best option. He’s put himself onto the map as a fringe starter and strong fourth outfield type with his bounceback season this year. Season line: .284/.418/.487, 341 AB, 14 HR, 11 SB, 64/115 BB/K.
Elehuris Montero, 3B/1B – The top prospect return in the Nolan Arenado deal this offseason, Montero was promoted this week to the Rockies’ AAA club. Montero has the frame (6’3″, 235) to imagine a future slugger, though he’s not really shown that in over-the-fence power before this season. While he has the arm to be very good at third, he has thickened out significantly over his minor league time, which has hampered his lateral movement, likely destining Montero for first base once he gets to the majors, putting even more pressure on his bat. There’s plenty to like here with the improved ability to access his raw power, and he’ll likely get a chance to show that ability in the majors in 2022 at some point. Season line: .281/.362/.520, 331 AB, 22 HR, 43/90 BB/K.
Tobias Myers, RHP – Originally drafted out of high school by the Orioles, Myers was acquired by Tampa Bay at the 2017 trade deadline when the Rays moved Tim Beckham to Baltimore. Myers has exhibited plus control throughout his pro career, but he worked during the pandemic season to build strength and is now sitting 92-94 deep into starts and touching 95-96 with a sharp curve and a change that he knows how to sequence and command well. Myers is likely a backend starter or middle reliever profile, but the way Tampa Bay uses pitchers, he could certainly have value due to his ability to fill the zone. Season line: 92 1/3 IP, 4.09 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 20/112 BB/K.
Sean Hjelle, RHP – The tallest player in the pro game, the Giants drafted the 6’11” righty from the University of Kentucky in the second round of the 2018 draft. With his frame, having a low-90s fastball isn’t exactly a deterrent from a future starting role as repeating his mechanics from his size will give him a chance to generate plenty of groundballs with his fastball/curve combination from his arm angle. He’s been working to elevate his four-seam fastball as well and locate his change at the top and bottom of the zone this season, which has led to higher walk rates for him as he’s been expanding his use of the zone, but even then he’s had one of the better walk rates in the entire Giants system. While not a future ace, Hjelle in a future San Francisco rotation would be a guy that could eat innings and give a different look in the rotation. Season line: 94 2/3 IP, 3.99 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 33/83 BB/K.
Bryson Stott, SS – Known for his bat coming out of UNLV, the Phillies drafted Stott with the 14th pick of the first round in 2019. Stott may not fit at shortstop long-term, but he’s shown himself able to handle the position as he’s climbed the Phillies system thus far, and with modern shifting, he could definitely have a better chance of at least spending a few years of his MLB career at short. Stott’s offensive potential is something fantasy owners should be very excited about as he is a guy that will be playing his home games in a hitter’s park with above-average power and the ability, at least early on in his career, to tally double-digit steals as well. If he’s not rostered in every dynasty out there, he certainly should be. Season line: .295/.383/.495, 370 AB, 15 HR, 9 SB, 55/98 BB/K.
George Valera, OF – Though he was born in New York, Valera was signed by the Indians out of the Dominican in 2017 as one of the top prospects in that year’s international class. Valera was known for his power early on, but he also exhibited issues with swing and miss in the lower levels. After work done during the pandemic season, Valera has shown excellent patience at the plate, tremendous game power, and his strikeout rate was much better at High-A, though it has picked up more since he was promoted to Double-A at the end of August. Valera has certainly crushed the ball over the fence, but he’s also struggled to make consistent contact, which shows up in his insane 17-2 home run to double ratio on the season. Valera will spend the 2022 season in the upper minors and likely get his shot late in 2022 or in 2023 to impact the Cleveland lineup for years to come. Season line: .254/.415/.508, 240 AB, 17 HR, 10 SB, 61/75 BB/K.
Patrick Frick, SS – The Mariners drafted Frick from Wake Forest in the 14th round of the 2019 draft. Frick is a mature hitter who sported one of the top on-base numbers in High-A before his promotion to Double-A. Frick does tend to get a bit pull-happy, trying to maximize his fringe-average power. Defensively, Frick has played primarily at short this season, and while he’s not elite at the position, his arm plays, and he’s steady with good instincts and a “quarterback of the infield” mentality. Frick could work very well as a utility infield type with his ability to handle multiple infield spots and offer something at the plate as he fills in. Season line: .286/.401/.429, 336 AB, 8 HR, 6 SB, 54/86 BB/K.
Jon Heasley, RHP – Another one of the hoard of college pitching the Royals have drafted in the last four drafts, Heasley was a 13th round selection in 2018 by Kansas City out of Oklahoma State. Heasley has adjusted to a higher arm slot as a pro, and it’s allowed his stuff to play up. He works with a fastball that reaches 96-97 and sits 92-95. He has three secondary options, with his curve and change both above-average options and his slider a below-average option that he uses as a “show me” pitch to keep hitters honest. His adjustment to the new arm slot has gone well this year and allowed him to take a notable step forward with his control, which has also allowed Heasley to project as a mid-rotation arm if he can maintain that control as he moves up to Triple-A and eventually MLB. Season line: 96 1/3 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 31/109 BB/K.
Emilio Vargas, RHP – Originally signed by the Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Vargas worked his way up the Arizona system to the 40-man roster, but when the Diamondbacks attempted to slip him through waivers to make room on the roster last season, the White Sox claimed him and have been impressed with his performance with Birmingham this season. Vargas works in the low-90s with a change and a slider that he works as a slider/cutter hybrid and also as a slurvy breaker. He commands his pitches well, but none of them individually is a plus pitch. He could be a backend starter, but his most likely role if he can make the majors will be as a long-relief arm to eat up innings in a bullpen. Season line: 72 2/3 IP, 2.72 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 24/83 BB/K.
Jhony Brito, RHP – The Yankees signed Brito out of the Dominican in November of 2015. Brito returned after 2017 Tommy John surgery and is now features a fastball that works in the low-90s and touches 95. His best pitch is a plus change, and he works in an average breaking pitch. Brito has a semi-violent delivery that leaves his head out of alignment, yet he has surprisingly good control. Because of that delivery, he’s likely best fit for the bullpen going forward, if he can keep up the performance that pushed him to Double-A this season. Season line: 104 2/3 IP, 3.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 21/105 BB/K.
Jose Peroza, IF – The Mets signed Peroza out of the Dominican in 2016. Peroza has filled significantly into his 6’1″ frame, weighing in at 220-225 pounds now, which has brought some question to whether he can handle third base or second base full-time, though he has excellent hands and a strong arm when he does get to balls. While Peroza has raw above-average power, he has shown improved patience this year. Carrying that forward could allow Peroza to work as a backup infielder. Season line: .269/.385/.445, 308 AB, 11 HR, 5 SB, 49/96 BB/K.
Jeremy Arocho, IF/OF – Arocho was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 27th round of the 2017 draft. He signed as a minor league free agent with the Angels and has really been impressive this season Arocho has below-average power, so he relies on his plus speed and keen eye offensively. Defensively, Arocho has played all over the infield and outfield this season. As a starter, he’s probably best fit at second base or left field, but he’s shown capable at third, short, and center field this season. That flexibility for Angels manager Joe Maddon could be quite valuable, allowing him to potentially move quickly in 2022. Season line: .308/.413/.358, 302 AB, 31 SB, 53/69 BB/K.
Spencer Horwitz, 1B – The Blue Jays drafted Horwitz from Radford in the 24th round of the 2019 draft. He’s not your typical hulking first baseman, and his raw power is above-average, manifesting more as line-drive power than home run power. The Blue Jays felt comfortable pushing Horwitz to High-A in his full-season debut after losing the pandemic year. He has shown well, walking more than he has struck out this year and ranking among the High-A leaders in doubles all season long. While he’s not a 30-home run threat, he has consistent contact skills to threaten .300 yearly, which is still very valuable. How he is able to develop that power as he moves up in the Jays system over the next year or two will determine if he has a big-league future. Season line: .287/.403/.446, 363 AB, 10 HR, 4 SB, 70/64 BB/K.
Darius Vines, RHP – The Braves drafted Vines from Cal State-Bakersfield in the 7th round in the 2019 draft. Vines is very athletic, but he had very little experience as a starting pitcher, so the Braves started him in Low-A this year, but his performance warranted a move to High-A where he’s continued to have success. Vines really only has an average fastball, working in the low-90s, though with excellent movement. He does work with an above-average curve that flashes plus along with a slider and change that are average and flash better. His average stuff plays better due to control in A-ball, so how that works in upper minors will be determined next season. Season line: 101 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 26/120 BB/K.
Alfonso Hernandez, LHP – Washington signed Hernandez in April 2016 and he made his pro debut that summer. He spent most of his time as a reliever coming into 2021, and he’s already nearly doubled his career high in innings. Hernandez doesn’t have a pitch that would grade above-average, and he’s a smaller framed guy, so there’s not a lot of projection to be considered. If he can continue to fill up the zone with his pitch mix, he could potentially work as a middle reliever from the left side. Season line: 96 1/3 IP, 3.55 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 31/109 BB/K.
Alfredi Jimenez, RHP – The Astros signed Jimenez in 2017 out of the Dominican. He works with a low 3/4 arm slot, which gives him a different look on his 91-93 MPH fastball that works up to 95-96 on the top end. He pairs it with a change that is consistently average and has flashed plus when he is able to be on top of it. Jimenez’s breaking pitch is above-average when he can get on top of the pitch, which can sometimes be an issue with his arm slot, which can leave his breaker hanging in the middle of the zone as he pounds the zone. Season line: 83 1/3 IP, 4.54 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 23/89 BB/K.
Lawrence Butler, 1B/OF – The A’s drafted Butler out of high school in Georgia in 2018 in the sixth round. He’s playing in his first full-season league this year and showing his immense natural athletic ability. He’s got plus raw power in his 6’4″ frame, and his unique athleticism is shown in that the two defensive positions he’s played most this year are first base and center field. While strikeouts are still a concern, there is plenty here to like and Butler should definitely be on the radar of anyone following the Athletics farm system. Season line: .263/.364/.499, 335 AB, 17 HR, 26 SB, 55/131 BB/K.
Jordan Nwogu, OF – Nwogu is a raw athlete still that was drafted by the Cubs in the third round of the 2020 draft. Nwogu had plenty of college interest as a football player coming out of college and went to Michigan with the hope to play both football and baseball, only committing to baseball full-time. He’s willing to take a walk, but there is still plenty of swing and miss due to an awkward and long swing path. When he does make contact, the natural power is impressive, and when he’s on base, Nwogu is a definite threat to create runs with his plus speed. He is playing at Low-A this season and will likely move at one level per year for the Cubs in order to allow his athleticism to develop into honed baseball skills. Season line: .247/.352/.405, 279 AB, 10 HR, 15 SB, 40/96 BB/K.
Nicholas Northcut, 3B/1B – The Red Sox drafted Northcut out of high school in the 11th round in 2018. He’s making his full-season debut this season, and he’s showing the raw tools that impressed the Red Sox enough to sign him for nearly five times slot. Northcut has plus raw power, but he struggles to get to that power with a loopy swing that is maximized for angle but has found struggles with consistent contact. Northcut’s arm is definitely plus, and he has good hands at third, but he has added plenty of bulk since high school and he’s already playing quite a bit of first base, so a move across the infield could be in his future, which would put even more pressure on his bat. Season line: .241/.341/.463, 294 AB, 11 HR, 41/78 BB/K.
Bobby Milacki, RHP – When the 2021 season began, Milacki was playing in independent ball before the Twins signed him away. He was originally drafted by the Nationals in 2018 but was released in 2020. Milacki is the son of a former big-league pitcher and knows the game well, but his raw stuff is average to above-average at best. His control has taken a big step forward and that allows his 95 MPH fastball and average secondaries to play up. He should work into the upper minors in 2022, which will give a good indication of whether he has a big-league future and in what role that future would be. Season line: 42 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7/42 BB/K.
Luis Palacios, LHP – Palacios has put up impressive numbers throughout his minor league career in the Marlins organization. He’s been doing it with a fastball in the upper-80s, an average slider, an above-average change, and plus or better control. The stuff wouldn’t suggest his performance, and watching him on the mound doesn’t really indicate any level of deception in his delivery. He’s been hit harder in full-season ball this year, which could give some indication that additional velocity will be required for success at higher levels. He’s got a frame to believe he could develop additional velo, so there are still definitely options open for Palacios. Season line: 47 IP, 4.02 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 13/53 BB/K.
Luis Ortiz, RHP – The Pirates signed Ortiz out of the Dominican in October of 2018 for just $25,000. Ortiz works with a fastball in the 91-94 MPH range, touching 96 with lively movement. He has an above-average change and a curve that flashes above-average as well. His control this season has been impressive, and he has a very repeatable delivery that makes that control certainly something that could work going forward. Ortiz projects as a mid-rotation arm or a potential strong relief option if he’s moved into that role, but the Pirates will want to see what they have out of him as a starter first as long as he can work in the rotation. Season line: 79 2/3 IP, 3.05 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 24/102 BB/K.
Samuel Zavala, OF – The Padres signed Zavala out of Venezuela in January with a reputation for a very good feel for the zone and an above-average contact tool. He’s shown those skills this year along with his plus raw power and above-average raw speed. Defensively, he has a strong arm that could work in right field, and he has the ability to work as a premium defender at the position long-term. Season line: .291/.389/.472, 127 AB, 2 HR, 9 SB, 19/21 BB/K.
Carlos Jorge, 2B/SS, – Jorge was a signee out of the Dominican by the Reds in January of this year. He is a smaller prospect at 5’9″ but his tools definitely make him attractive, with double-plus speed and above-average raw power as well. Jorge has the hands and range to handle short, but more of an average arm, which likely will mean a move to second base long-term. While many are watching teammate Leonardo Balcazar this summer, Jorge could be a second Reds prospect among the top prospects coming out of the DSL this year. Season line: .347/.423/.558, 95 AB, 2 HR, 18 SB, 12/20 BB/K.
Danuerys De La Cruz, C/1B – The Tigers signed De La Cruz in May of 2018 and saw him make his pro debut that summer. He’s shown an advanced eye for his age as he’s developed, with double-digit walk rates at every level. De La Cruz is an impressive raw athlete for a catcher, and the Tigers have been getting him time out from behind the plate to ensure his offensive abilities are in the lineup. He’ll make his debut in full-season ball next summer. Season line: .280/.430/.500, 100 AB, 4 HR, 25/31 BB/K.
Rafael Camacho, RHP – Signed in October of 2018, Camacho struggled in his first exposure to the DSL in 2019. This season, he’s dominated in a very similar role, pitching multiple innings, primarily as a reliever, making just one start in 10 appearances. Camacho has a fastball that works up to 94-95 and a breaking ball that can flash above average. He’s reportedly working on a changeup this year, which could allow him to project as a middle relief option. Season line: 30 2/3 IP, 0.59 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 9/28 BB/K.
Eury Rosado, RHP – The Rangers signed Rosado in November of 2019, but he did not get to make his pro debut until this summer due to the pandemic season. Rosado is an impressive young arm that has plenty of projection in his 6′ frame. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball currently and features a change and breaking pitch that he has good feel for currently. Building stamina and getting consistent break on his breaking pitch will be the challenge for Rosado as he comes stateside. Season line: 40 2/3 IP, 0.89 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 9/42 BB/K.
Peniel Otano, RHP – The Diamondbacks signed Otano out of the Dominican this summer as an 18-year-old. His age allowed him to immediately play in the DSL, where he’s shown an impressive mid-90s fastball and a breaking pitch that flashes plus at his best. There is a lot of work to do for Otano, but Arizona likes his current stuff and believes his 6’4″ frame portends future growth. Season line: 32 2/3 IP, 2.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10/37 BB/K.