Minor league baseball weekly cultivation for week ending September 11, 2021
As the minor league baseball season winds down, we want to ensure that the top prospects in the game have had a chance to be mentioned. This week, we are looking through MLB Pipeline’s top 100 midseason list and midseason team rankings to find players that have not been covered yet in our “sorting through the weeds” section. Restrictions on one player per team and one hitter and one pitcher per league in the minors are out the window this week and next week as we attempt to make sure some of the top prospects in the game are mentioned before the end of the season!
Statistical Leaders (stats through September 11)
AVG – Adrian Pinto, Rk (Col), .403
OBP – Gabe Moncada, Rk (Sea), .527
SLG – Abimelec Ortiz, Rk (Tex), .716
HR – Griffin Conine, A+/AA (Mia) and MJ Melendez, AA/AAA (KC), 36
SB – Jayce Easley, A (Tex), 69
IP – Bryce Elder, A+/AA/AAA (Atl), 123 2/3
ERA – Taj Bradley, A (TB), 1.88
WHIP – Jayden Murray, A+/AA (TB), 0.71
SV – Chris Wright, A/A+ (SF), 20
K – Cade Cavalli, A+/AA/AAA (Was) and Carson Ragsdale, A (SF), 162
AVG – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .360
OBP – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .452
SLG – Jose Marmolejos, Tacoma (Sea), .700
HR – Ryan McBroom, Omaha (KC), 29
SB – Vidal Brujan, Durham (TB), 37
IP – James Marvel, Indianapolis (Pit), 111 2/3
ERA – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 3.40
WHIP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 1.05
SV – Three with 18
K – Cory Abbott, Iowa (ChC), 121
AVG – Otto Lopez, New Hampshire (Tor), .331
OBP – Austin Martin, New Hampshire (Tor)/Wichita (Min), .410
SLG – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), .628
HR – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC) and Ryan Noda, Tulsa (LAD), 28
SB – Brewer Hicklen, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 38
IP – Noah Zavolas, Biloxi (Mil), 114 2/3
ERA – Max Meyer, Pensacola (Mia), 2.56
WHIP – Konnor Pilkington, Birmingham (ChW)/Akron (Cle), 0.99
SV – Colton Hock, Pensacola (Mia) and Jose Quezada, San Antonio (SD), 17
K – Tommy Henry, Amarillo (Ari), 133
AVG – Ismael Munguia, Eugene (SF), .334
OBP – Matt Fraizer, Greensboro (Pit), .401
SLG – Matt Fraizer, Greensboro (Pit), .578
HR – Andy Pages, Great Lakes (LAD), 28
SB – Delvin Zinn, South Bend (ChC), 42
IP – Bryan Hoeing, Beloit (Mia), 114
ERA – Quinn Priester, Greensboro (Pit), 2.65
WHIP – Eduardo Salazar, Dayton (Cin), 1.13
SV – Chris Wright, Eugene (SF), 13
K – Kai-Wei Teng, Eugene (SF), 130
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 – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 108 2/3
ERA – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 2.91
WHIP – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 0.96
SV – Robinson Hernandez, Fresno (Col), 14
K – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 162
AVG – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, .403
OBP – Gabe Moncada, Mariners, .527
SLG – Abimelec Ortiz, Rangers, .716
HR – Manuel Sequera, Tigers, 11
SB – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, 37
IP – Trevor McDonald, Giants, 61 2/3
ERA – Joel Diaz, Mets, 0.26
WHIP – Jose Cedeno, Nationals, 0.64
SV – Luis Amoroso, Rockies, 10
K – Esmerlin Vinicio, Giants, 66
Sorting through the weeds:
Gabriel Arias, SS/3B – The Padres signed Arias out of Venezuela in 2016 before trading him last summer as part of the package that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego. Arias has plus raw power and is one of the most impressive infield arms in minor league baseball. His hit tool has been in question due to a long swing, but he has worked hard to shorten the swing and to be more selective at the plate, lowering his strikeout rate for multiple seasons in a row. Arias can handle shortstop athletically, but he might eventually slide over to third base and could be an elite defender at the hot corner. Season line: .271/.337/427, 384 AB, 11 HR, 4 SB, 36/101 BB/K.
Jordan Balazovic, RHP – Canadian Balazovic was the Twins’ fifth-round selection in 2016 and was developed methodically by the organization. He exploded onto the scene in 2019 with tremendous stuff. Balazovic sits 92-94, touching 96, and he shapes the fastball in multiple ways. He offers a fringe-plus slider and a plus curve along with an average change. His frame and quality pitch mix lead to the projection of a mid-rotation starter, and he really pounds the strike zone. Balazovic will get some time in Triple-A in 2022, but with the Twins likely having open auditions for multiple rotation spots, he could jump straight to Minnesota in 2022. Season line: 93 1/3 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 34/97 BB/K.
Joey Bart, C – The second overall pick out of Georgia Tech by the Giants in 2018, Bart seemingly had it all – big power with the bat, excellent defensive skills, and a big arm behind the plate. Bart flew through the minors and made his MLB debut during the pandemic season. He’s struggled with swing and miss this season even as he’s had success in Triple-A. Meanwhile, future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey has had a rejuvenation season in San Francisco, so the path for Bart is a bit more cloudy going forward. Season line: (MLB) .333/.333/.333, 6 AB, 0/2 BB/K (minors) .293/.351/.480, 229 AB, 10 HR, 17/75 BB/K.
JJ Bleday, OF – The Marlins selected Bleday out of Vanderbilt with the fourth selection of the 2019 draft. He had been one of the top sluggers in college baseball that previous year. After missing the pandemic season, Bleday was pushed to Double-A, and he showed some definite struggles over the course of 2021 with his swing very grooved for power and struggling to make consistent contact. He’s got a good eye at the plate, so he should be able to work through this, but there’s definitely some concern about his ability to make consistent contact and access his big power moving forward. Season line: .209/.320/.374, 388 AB, 12 HR, 4 SB, 62/100 BB/K.
Michael Busch, 2B/1B – The Dodgers took Busch out of North Carolina in the first round in 2019 with the idea immediately to move him to second base. He was known to be a better athlete than his background as a first baseman led to believe. He’s not going to likely win any defensive awards as a second baseman, but he’s more than capable at the position, and his offensive ability would be among the top second basemen in the game. Busch has plus power and a patient approach at the plate that should allow for him to progress to Triple-A in 2022. Season line: .267/.387/.489, 401 AB, 20 HR, 69/125 BB/K.
Edward Cabrera, RHP – Coming into the season, there were three arms that had a legit argument for the top pitching prospect in the Marlins organization, with each having a “knock” against them. For Cabrera, his biggest knock was that he’s consistently dealt with injuries. Cabrera has cleared 100 innings one time in his minor league career, and he missed time again this year. When healthy, Cabrera has an electric fastball that runs into the triple digits, a hard change, and a wicked slider. His curve has become a solid fourth pitch as well. The raw stuff is the type of stuff a frontline starter dreams of, but Cabrera will need to show he can stay healthy. Season line: (MLB) 12 2/3 IP, 7.11 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 7/5 BB/K, (minors) 61 1/3 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 25/92 BB/K.
Luis Campusano, C – After a few poor decisions over the offseason, Luis Campusano had a delayed start to his spring and despite that, he’s put together an impressive campaign in Triple-A. Campusano had a shot to get extra playing time as the Padres needed catching help early at the big league level. Campusano has plus raw power and above-average contact ability. His defense behind the plate is nothing to write home about, but he can stick at catcher. Right now, he’s simply waiting to be given the keys to the car in San Diego. Season line: (MLB) .088/.184/.088, 34 AB, 4/11 BB/K, (minors) .295/.365/.541, 292 AB, 15 HR, 27/66 BB/K.
Corbin Carroll, OF – If it weren’t for a shoulder injury that ended his 2021 season, Carroll was on his way to establishing himself as a top 15-20 prospect in the entire game this year. He was originally drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2019 draft out of high school, and many thought he’d take some time to develop, but Carroll has hit the ground running. Carroll has an elite contact tool and plus to double-plus speed that key his offensive game along with plus defensive skills. His power is probably the biggest question. He shows above-average raw power in batting practice, but how that will translate going forward could be the difference between one of the 5-10 best fantasy players in the game and a guy that is a top-3 round pick every year. Season line: .435/.552/.913, 23 AB, 2 HR, 3 SB, 6/7 BB/K.
Triston Casas, 1B – Considered to have the most raw power of any prep hitter in the 2018 draft, the Red Sox plucked Casas with the 26th overall selection. Hamstring injuries and time away with the Olympic time have limited Casas’ ability to really make a big step forward as a prospect this season. He has moved from third base to exclusively play first base this season, though his swing and miss has been significantly reduced. Casas mixes the ability to hit for power and average while also carrying a high on-base. How well that power grows as he hits the major leagues is what will determine his ultimate future, with many seeing Casas as a potential repeat of Kevin Youkilis. Season line: .286/.393/.484, 252 AB, 12 HR, 6 SB, 43/57 BB/K.
Oneil Cruz, SS – Cruz was originally signed by the Dodgers in 2015 before he was traded to the Pirates as part of a deal that sent Tony Watson to Los Angeles. Cruz is a giant of a human, which is why many have felt that he would move off shortstop. Cruz stands 6’7″ and is filled out with plenty of muscle on that frame. The Pirates have left him at short, however, and he’s been adequate. He has the arm to be impressive at third base, but with modern shifting, he could end up at least arriving at the majors playing shortstop. Offensively, he’s got to work on his swing and miss, which is common for a guy of his size, but his power and speed combination is impressive. Season line: .293/.348/.522, 232 AB, 10 HR, 17 SB, 19/56 BB/K.
Jarren Duran, OF – The Red Sox drafted Duran out of Long Beach State in the 7th round in the 2018 draft. He’s developed as a guy who struggled to identify a defensive home, as a below-average defender in the outfield but not quite good enough to handle the infield either. His offensive skills were heavily weighted on his speed before he changed his swing to access more power. That showed up more in Triple-A before he was promoted, but the altered swing was exploited at the big league level. Duran’s a work-hard sort of player that won’t let a bad first shot in Boston end his MLB career, but there’s definitely some concern after his first showing. Season line: (MLB) .215/.241/.336, 107 AB, 2 HR, 2 SB, 4/40 BB/K, (minors) .264/.362/.548, 197 AB, 15 HR, 13 SB, 26/55 BB/KK.
Xavier Edwards, 2B/3B – Edwards was originally drafted by the Padres in 2018 before being traded to the Rays as part of the deal that sent Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth to San Diego. Edwards may be the fastest player in minor league baseball in raw speed. He’s got below-average power and plus contact skills that will likely require his speed to be a big part of his offensive production. Edwards is going to be a second baseman, though he’s been playing around the infield some like most Rays eventually do. His skillset is a rare one among prospects that you see now, but he’s a guy that certainly could offer positive things to a big-league team. Season line: .290/.367/.353, 272 AB, 17 SB, 34/41 BB/K.
Tyler Freeman, IF – Cleveland drafted Freeman in the second competitive balance round in 2017 and saw him take to full-season ball very well in 2019. The word throughout the 2020 alt site camp and fall instructs was that Freeman was absolutely crushing baseballs, including off many of the team’s young star hurlers. For a guy who hadn’t shown much power to this point, that was an impressive thing for his profile. This year, he’s shown more raw power in batting practice, but it’s not shown up in games. Freeman has the defensive ability to handle any position in the infield, plus contact skills, and above-average speed that should certainly project him for a big-league future. If that power can start playing in-game, he could find himself playing in Triple-A in 2022 and working toward a starting role in Cleveland in 2023. Season line: .323/.372/.470, 164 AB, 2 HR, 4 SB, 8/21 BB/K.
Jordan Groshans, SS/3B – Groshans has shown himself as an elite talent, but he’s struggled to stay on the field since the Blue Jays selected him 12th overall in 2018. He’s got legit plus power and a very good eye at the plate, which should allow that power to play. Groshans has been rumored to move to third for quite some time, but he continues to play shortstop. His hands and arm work well at the position, though his range is below average. With modern shifting, Groshans could potentially work at short, but he definitely will work on the left side of the infield. This season will nearly double Groshans’ previous career high for at-bats, so the team will watch how the wear and tear break him down in Triple-A next season, but he’s an impressive prospect. Season line: .291/.367/.450, 278 AB, 7 HR, 34/61 BB/K.
D.L. Hall, LHP – Hall was drafted in the first round in 2017 by the Orioles, and when the season began, many saw his work and the work done by Grayson Rodriguez and thought the Orioles may have two of the biggest movers in pitching prospects this season. Rodriguez has kept up his work, but Hall, unfortunately, had a stress reaction in his pitching elbow that ended his season. Hall’s command could use some work, but he works in the mid-90s with his fastball, has a curve that has received double-plus grades, and he’s really worked on his change to the point where it’s a consistent plus offering as well. A repertoire of three plus pitches from the left side has Hall lined up as a potential frontline guy if he can get his command to even an average level. Season line: 31 2/3 IP, 3.13 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 16/56 BB/K.
Sam Huff, 1B – Huff was drafted by the Rangers out of high school in 2016 in the 7th round. High school catching is a tough area in the draft, but a guy with the raw power that Huff has certainly offers a path beyond catcher. This year, Huff was forced into experiencing that other path. Huff made it to the majors in 2020 and was poised to compete for a role on the big league club this spring, but a hamstring injury and then knee surgery kept him out until mid-July. The Rangers have not let him play a moment behind the plate, however, with all of Huff’s time at first base or DH this season. Huff doesn’t look fully comfortable yet at the plate, but he still has his raw power. He turns 24 in January, so he’s still young enough to consider 2021 a lost season and look to reset in 2022. Season line: .241/.316/.476, 191 AB, 13 HR, 18/84 BB/K.
Greg Jones, SS – Jones was a first-round pick by the Rays in 2019 out of UNC-Wilmington, where he was known as an elite raw athlete with some questions about his baseball polish. He’s quickly shown the raw talent has pushed forward and his baseball polish has already advanced enough that he’s shown well in Double-A. There’s still swing and miss that Jones will need to work through, but the athleticism is absolutely elite. Jones will spend all of 2022 in the upper minors with a chance to contribute by the end of the season. Season line: .270/.366/.482, 274 AB, 14 HR, 34 SB, 33/96 BB/K.
Nolan Jones, 3B/OF – Not every experiment ends up a wise idea. Jones was selected in 2016 by Cleveland in the second round as one of the top prep bats available in the draft that year. He was likely to move off short as a strong, 6’4″ build, but after multiple years at third, the Indians moved Jones to the outfield this season hoping that the move would ignite his natural raw power. Instead, Jones seemed to regress at the plate this season while attempting the outfield, leading to a move back to third. Jones has the arm to handle a corner outfield spot, but whether Cleveland will attempt the move again remains to be seen. His eye at the plate and power should allow him to compete for a spot on a rebuilding Cleveland team in 2022. Season line: .238/.356/.431, 341 AB, 13 HR, 10 SB, 59/122 BB/K.
Josh Jung, 3B – Texas native Jung went to Texas Tech and then was the 8th overall selection by the Texas Rangers in 2019. He has shown enough this year to think that he could be playing at the major league level in Texas in 2022. Jung is an elite contact hitter and has plus raw power, though he’s more likely to be a doubles power sort of guy early on as a big leaguer. Jung’s defense is underrated. He handled shortstop in his draft year in college, and while he’s certainly not a shortstop, he should be among the top glove men at the hot corner immediately upon getting to the majors. Season line: .293/.368/.543, 232 AB, 14 HR, 24/61 BB/K.
George Kirby, RHP – The Mariners selected Kirby with the 20th overall selection in the 2019 draft knowing that he had elite control of his raw stuff. He keys his arsenal with a fastball that consistently works in the mid-90s but can touch triple-digits at the top end. None of his secondary stuff would likely grade above average, but his ability to locate it allows it to play up. Kirby’s raw stuff would likely have him projected as a mid-rotation type of guy at best, but with his double-plus command, he could work his way into a #2 starter. Look for him to spend a lot of 2022 in Triple-A and get a look by the end of the year with the big league club. Season line: 62 IP, 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13/74 BB/K.
Jackson Kowar, RHP – Kowar was one of two Florida Gators that the Royals drafted in the first round in 2018. Kowar works with a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98-99 in short bursts, but his best pitch is a double-plus change. He also works with a slider and curve that are both average pitches. When he sequences well, the repertoire looks like a quality 4th starter. The Royals pushed Kowar to the majors this season, and he’s struggled to control his stuff at the big league level. When he can pound the zone with his stuff, he can be a mid-rotation arm. Season line: (MLB) 17 IP, 9.53 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, 11/15 BB/K, (minors) 80 2/3 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 34/115 BB/K.
Luis Matos, OF – The Giants signed Matos in 2018 out of Venezuela as part of a trio of hopeful studs for the organization. Matos has a quick bat that should allow him to project for plus game power and plus contact as well. Matos is an average to above-average fielder in the outfield with an accurate, above-average arm. I’ve had a scout compare Matos to a young Kirby Puckett in his frame and his skillset. Puckett transitioned gap power to 20+ home runs as he aged and was able to stick in center field for quite a while after his body shifted. Matos has primarily played center this season and shown well. His next big challenge will be adjusting to upper minors pitching. Season line: .304/.346/.473, 427 AB, 13 HR, 21 SB, 24/61 BB/K.
Cristian Pache, OF – The Atlanta Braves signed Pache in 2015 out of the Dominican. He’s shown remarkable defense from the moment he stepped on the field as a pro, and that’s certainly still his calling card, with his center field defense and outfield arm both considered among the absolute best in the minor leagues. Pache has worked hard to transform his body from a guy who relied on his speed and had no power to a guy who can generate impressive exit velocities with his raw strength without sacrificing double-plus speed. He’s not a great base stealer, but he can motor from first to third as well as anyone in the minors. His first exposure to the big leagues did not go well this year, but the Braves made clear with inquiring teams at the deadline that he is still significantly part of future plans. Season line: (MLB) .111/.152/.206, 63 AB, 1 HR, 2/25 BB/K, (minors) .272/.344/.438, 272 AB, 10 HR, 9 SB, 29/82 BB/K.
Nate Pearson, RHP – Coming out of junior college before the 2017 draft, Pearson was known for his elite velocity, but many felt he would be either a reliever quickly or take significant time to develop as a starter. This was especially considered when Pearson missed the majority of the 2018 season due to multiple injuries. He then worked all the way to AAA in his real first full minor league season, making his MLB debut in 2020. However, even with a change that can flash plus, Pearson has struggled to control his four-pitch collection and that, along with continued injuries, have not allowed him to break through as a starter. He may end up a dominant reliever in the end, but he’s definitely at a career crossroads right now. Season line: (MLB) 7 1/3 IP, 7.36 ERA, 2.32 WHIP, 7/7 BB/K, (minors) 30 2/3 IP, 4.40 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 13/44 BB/K.
Liover Peguero, SS – The Pirates acquired Peguero as part of the package that sent Starling Marte to Arizona. Peguero has been a lot of projection until this season, but he’s showing a lot of that projection maturing into production on the field this year. He’s an above-average hitter with plus speed that has shown that his raw average power could potentially play out even better as he’s filled into his 6’1″ frame. Defensively, Peguero is a sure shortstop. Controlling his swing and miss will determine how quickly he moves forward in 2022, with a chance that he spends some time in Pittsburgh by season’s end. Season line: .271/.332/.455, 347 AB, 14 HR, 24 SB, 30/100 BB/K.
Quinn Priester, RHP – A prospect that popped up in the 2019 class as his stuff was tremendous in his draft spring, Priester was drafted 18th overall by the Pirates. His stuff has only gotten better as a pro. Priester works in the mid-90s deep into games, touching triple digits when he really reaches back. His secondary stuff continues to improve, with a double-plus curve that could be considered the best in all the minor leagues. He works with a cutter rather than a straight change, and the cutter has already worked up to a plus pitch at its best. He’s able to control his repertoire and also keep hitters off-base, leading to plenty of weak contact. Priester is among the top pitching prospects in the game. Season line: 95 IP, 2.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 34/96 BB/K.
Heliot Ramos, OF – In showcases the summer before his draft season, Ramos began drawing eyes when he would rocket tape-measure shots. The Puerto Rico native was drafted by the Giants in the first round in 2017. He’s typically taken a season to adapt to a level before adjusting well in his second season at a level. He’s struggled since his promotion to Triple-A this season, but his prototypical right field profile should likely do well in 2022 at the level and move up to the big leagues for a look by the end of next year. Season line: .240/.317/.412, 391 AB, 13 HR, 13 SB, 40/119 BB/K.
Drew Waters, OF – Waters was one of the top prep outfield prospects in the 2017 draft but fell to his home state Braves in the second round. He’s been an impressive prospect throughout his development, including a 2019 season that saw him reach AAA, though there were some legit concerns with a potentially unsustainable BABIP that was part of that season’s numbers. The BABIP came back down to a more sustainable level, but Waters has shown that while he is striking out 30%+ of the time, he’ll continue to be a very streaky hitter. He’s an excellent defender, and he offers raw above-average power and double-plus speed, but until he can be more consistent in his approach, there’s a very high risk/reward in the profile. Season line: .234/.331/.374, 342 AB, 9 HR, 24 SB, 44/128 BB/K.