Minor league baseball weekly cultivation for week ending September 18, 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 Baseball Americas’s top 100 midseason list and midseason team rankings along with Fangraphs’ top 100 midseason list to find players that have not been covered yet in our “sorting through the weeds” section. A few top statistical performers are also featured that haven’t been mentioned to ensure we get them covered this year!
Statistical Leaders (stats through September 18)
AVG – Adrian Pinto, Rk (Col), .371
OBP – Gabe Moncada, Rk (Sea), .518
SLG – Abimelec Ortiz, Rk (Tex), .643
HR – MJ Melendez, AA/AAA (KC), 38
SB – Jayce Easley, A (Tex), 70
IP – Bryce Elder, A+/AA/AAA (Atl), 128 2/3
ERA – Taj Bradley, A (TB), 1.83
WHIP – Jayden Murray, A+/AA (TB), 0.71
SV – Chris Wright, A/A+ (SF), 21
K – Carson Ragsdale, A (SF), 167
AVG – Taylor Kohlwey, El Paso (SD), .342
OBP – Khalil Lee, Syracuse (NYM), .450
SLG – Keibert Ruiz, Oklahoma City (LAD)/Rochester (Was), .616
HR – Ryan McBroom, Omaha (KC), 31
SB – Vidal Brujan, Durham (TB), 41
IP – James Marvel, Indianapolis (Pit), 117 2/3
ERA – Josh Lindblom, Nashville (Mil), 3.14
WHIP – Mike Wright Jr, Charlotte (ChW), 1.05
SV – Ronel Blanco, Sugarland (Hou), 20
K – Cory Abbott, Iowa (ChC), 125
AVG – Otto Lopez, New Hampshire (Tor), .331
OBP – Jonathan Aranda, Montgomery (TB), .410
SLG – MJ Melendez, Northwest Arkansas (KC), .628
HR – Dermis Garcia, Somerset (NYY), 30
SB – Brewer Hicklen, Northwest Arkansas (KC), 40
IP – Jared Koenig, Midland (Oak), 121 1/3
ERA – Max Meyer, Pensacola (Mia), 2.41
WHIP – Konnor Pilkington, Birmingham (ChW)/Akron (Cle), 0.99
SV – Colton Hock, Pensacola (Mia, 19
K – Tommy Henry, Amarillo (Ari), 135
AVG – Ismael Munguia, Eugene (SF), .336
OBP – Jacob Hurtubise, Dayton (Cin), .415
SLG – Matt Fraizer, Greensboro (Pit), .578
HR – Andy Pages, Great Lakes (LAD), 31
SB – Delvin Zinn, South Bend (ChC), 42
IP – Bryan Hoeing, Beloit (Mia), 121
ERA – Quinn Priester, Greensboro (Pit), 3.04
WHIP – Jesus Vargas, Great Lakes (LAD), 1.13
SV – Chris Wright, Eugene (SF), 17
K – Kai-Wei Teng, Eugene (SF), 142
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), 23
SB – Jayce Easley, Down East (Tex), 70
IP – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 113 2/3
ERA – Adrian Florencio, Bradenton (Pit), 2.91
WHIP – Joey Estes, Augusta (Atl), 0.96
SV – Robinson Hernandez, Fresno (Col), 14
K – Carson Ragsdale, San Jose (SF), 167
AVG – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, .403
OBP – Gabe Moncada, Mariners, .518
SLG – Abimelec Ortiz, Rangers, .643
HR – Three with 11
SB – Adrian Pinto, Rockies, 37
IP – Trevor McDonald, Giants, 67 2/3
ERA – Joel Diaz, Mets, 0.23
WHIP – Adrian Quintana, Mariners, 0.69
SV – Luis Amoroso, Rockies, 10
K – Esmerlin Vinicio, Giants, 70
Sorting through the weeds:
Aaron Ashby, LHP – Ashby was plucked by the Brewers in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. He has seen his stuff play up as he worked his way up the Brewers system. He has seen his fastball work up to 94-97, touching 98. He pairs the fastball with an plus slider and change. He has a curve that has worked well in the minors but been very seldom used in the majors. Ashby has shown very well as the Brewers have used him as a multi-inning reliever, but working his stuff into the rotation from the left side along the rest of the current rotation could give the Brewers one of the top rotations in the league. Season line: (MLB) 26 IP, 2.77 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 7/28 BB/K; (minors) 63 1/3 IP, 4.41 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 32/100 BB/K.
Jose Barrero, SS – Previously known as Jose Garcia, Barrero was signed by the Reds out of Cuba in 2016 for $5 million. Injuries slowed his initial introduction to the Reds system before he broke out in 2019. Barrero is an elite defender that could play every day as a shortstop but also has the athleticism and arm to work in centerfield. He’s more average across the board offensively, but he’s struggled to make contact in his time in the MLB. Season line: (MLB) .190/.261/.286, 21 AB, 1/6 BB/K; (minors) .303/.380/.539, 330 AB, 19 HR, 16 SB, 36/84 BB/K.
Steward Berroa, OF – The Blue Jays signed Berroa out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. He finally had his first full-season in 2021 in the Jays system, and he showed off his plus speed, definitely taking advantage of the A-level rules to aid in being one of the top base-stealers in all of minor league baseball. Berroa is an adequate defender at all three outfield spots, but he won’t win a Gold Glove. He’s shown surprising power this season, though he’s more of a line-drive hitter that will be more likely to spray 30 doubles than 10 home runs. He’s shown good plate discipline this year, though, which will be interesting to track in 2022 as he likely gets a longer run in the upper levels. Season line: .246/.359/.398, 284 AB, 7 HR, 58 SB, 50/76 BB/K.
Bryce Bonnin, RHP – The Reds drafted Bonnin in the 3rd round in 2020 out of Texas Tech. He missed the first two months of the season due to an early injury. He worked on his delivery and showed up with a fastball that worked in the mid-90s, touching triple digits. He uses an upper-80s slider as his primary secondary offering. He’s working in a cutter and his change flashes impressive, but he rarely shows it right now because he doesn’t need to. As he moves into upper level minors, he’ll need to work with all four pitches, but his development has been impressive thus far. Season line: 47 IP, 2.87 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 17/71 BB/K.
Matt Brash, RHP – Canadian-born Brash was drafted by the Padres in the 4th round of the 2019 draft. The Mariners acquired him as the player to be named later when they sent Taylor Williams to the Padres last season. Brash has quickly become one of the most talked about players in the minor leagues this season. He doesn’t have an intimidating build by any means at 6’1″ and a listed 170 pounds (though he looks to have added 10 good pounds to that number), but his stuff is definitely going to have a hitter uncomfortable in the box. Brash runs his fastball up to 99 and has a hard slider that rates an easy plus and has received some double-plus grades. His change is still a work in progress and has shown variance, though at its top end, it’s a potential third plus pitch. When he’s dialed in on his command and control, he’s absolutely unhittable. Expect to see his name show up on a number of top 100 lists this offseason and he’ll get a chance to work in the upper minors for the Mariners in 2022 to gain even more noteriety. Season line: 97 1/3 IP, 2.31 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 48/142 BB/K.
Ben Brecht, LHP – Brecht was a personal favorite in the 2019 draft with his 6’7″ build from the left side, his extension, and his strong pitchability. Brecht pounds the zone with a fastball that works in the low-90s, a plus change, a sweeping slider and a hard cutter/slider hybrid. Brecht’s extension allows all of his stuff to play up notably, getting on hitters in a hurry. It’s not strikeout stuff, but it is tremendously effective and hitters struggle to get quality swings on him. The Rays have developed arms like Brecht in a variety of roles, whether it’s as a multi-inning reliever or a true starter or even potentially as a single-inning option. He definitely will be someone that could be valuable in Tampa Bay as soon as the 2022 season.. Season line: 75 1/3 IP, 3.23 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 14/70 BB/K.
Hunter Brown, RHP – Brown is a guy that has some interesting variance in the prospecting industry currently. Originally drafted by the Astros in the 5th round in 2019 out of D-II Wayne State. He had reports of reaching triple digits during fall instructs and his curveball received rave reviews at the alternate site in 2020. Working those two pitches with an above-average slider and a fringe-average change would be a legit mid-rotation starter with potential for even more. However, Brown has struggled to be consistent with his pitches in 2021, both in location and in their effectiveness. He’s still a profile that the Astros develop very well, but perhaps pushing him up the rankings too quickly showed this season. Don’t sleep on Brown just because of perceived issues this year, however. Season line: 89 IP, 4.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 45/114 BB/K.
Evan Carter, OF – The Rangers surprised many when they drafted Carter in the second round of the 2020 draft. However, his play has been impressive at instructional league and then in his work at full-season ball. Carter has impressive exit velocities and athleticism to go along with unbelievable strike zone recognition for a player who was still younger than many of the players drafted out of high school in the 2021 draft. Carter had a stress fracture in his back that caused him to miss a significant part of the 2021 season, so the Rangers will likely let him take things slowly to begin 2022, but he’s already shown himself to be a prospect to keep an eye on. Season line: .236/.438/.387, 106 AB, 2 HR, 12 SB, 34/28 BB/K.
Yoelqui Cespedes, OF – Cespedes was signed in January, but visa issues kept him from beginning his pro career until mid-June. Cespedes came from Cuba with a big reputation for his defensive ability in the outfield and his raw power. He struggled out of the gate, but hit his stride once he got to August, as he’s hit .305/.368/.481 with much better plate discipline since August 1, including his entire time since his promotion to Double-A. Cespedes should be on track to appear in the major leagues at some point of 2022, though his future role for the White Sox is likely not going to be at the level of fellow Cubans Luis Robert or Jose Abreu, instead more likely working into a league-average starting outfielder role for a contending club, but not an elite-level player. Season line: .285/.350/.463, 270 AB, 8 HR, 18 SB, 16/83 BB/K.
Eddy Diaz, 2B/SS – Diaz was originally signed for $750,000 out of Cuba by the Rockies, the first Cuban prospect that the Rockies had signed. Diaz has electrifying speed and has used that speed to generate high BABIP-driven batting averages through his minor league career. He had shown excellent plate discipline previously, but struck out notably more this season in his first full-season assignment. Diaz has near 20-grade power and he’s certainly a guy that will struggle to project as a shortstop long-term, so fitting him on a major league roster will require a very high level of contact and playing error-free defense at second base. Season line: .273/.352/.335, 403 AB, 58 SB, 36/87 BB/K.
Jhoan Duran, RHP – The Twins acquired Duran in the trade that sent Eduardo Escobar to Arizona. He’s struggled with injuries in 2021 this year, which has been frustrating as he would have had multiple opportunities in the majors this year had he been healthy. Duran can reach upper 90s with his four-seam fastball, and his sinker is distinct, a 92-94 MPH offering that has a strong split-finger effect in its action. He has shown a big breaking curveball and an average change. Duran could continue to develop as a mid-rotation starter once healthy, or he could potentially work as a potential elite high-leverage reliever. Season line: 16 IP, 5.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 13/22 BB/K.
Jayce Easley, OF – Easley has never lacked for coverage in his amateur career. The son of former All-Star Damion Easley, Jayce was also high school teammates with top prospect Nolan Gorman before the Rangers drafted him in the fifth round in 2018. He took over the minor league lead in stolen bases roughly two months into the season, and he’s now built a comfortable gap between he and the closest competitor in the stolen base race in the minors in 2021. Easley has made a strong transition to the outfield this year, where his double-plus speed can play well as he tracks down balls. Easley’s patience and speed are definitely assets, and whether he can show consistent contact going forward will determine his future role. Season line: .241/.401/.303, 307 AB, 70 SB, 77/83 BB/K.
David Hamilton, SS/2B – The Brewers drafted Hamilton in the 8th round of the 2019 draft out of the University of Texas. Hamilton missed his entire draft year due to injury and then lost the pandemic year, so he’s worked off plenty of gameplay rust this season. Hamilton has double-plus speed, which he used to his advantage with the rules in A-ball that help base stealers. He has shown more power as a pro than he did as an amateur, though he also has notably added muscle to his frame. Hamilton handles both middle infield spots well defensively, though he’s probably more adequate at short and plus at second. Hamilton will likely spend 2022 in the upper minors with a chance to make his MLB debut with a big year. Season line: .256/.338/.419, 399 AB, 8 HR, 51 SB, 49/89 BB/K.
Ivan Herrera, C – It is almost unfair that an organization with Yadier Molina for the last 15+ years has the minor league depth behind the plate, so much so that the Cardinals were able to trade catching to bring in a superstar like Paul Goldschmidt a few years back. Whether Herrera will have a future in St. Louis or not will be seen in the next few years, but he spent the season in Double-A in 2021, showing he could get on base, hit for power, and play excellent defense behind the plate at the upper minors. With Molina announcing his intention to retire after an extension that runs through the 2022 season, Herrera could spend the 2022 season honing his skills at Triple-A and then challenge for the starting role in St. Louis in 2023. Season line: .232/.347/.402, 358 AB, 16 HR, 60/93 BB/K.
Seth Johnson, RHP – Johnson was the 40th overall selection in the 2019 draft out of Campbell. His stuff was extremely well-regarded, but the execution of that stuff needed work. The Rays have moved him intentionally to work with that raw stuff. At his best, Johnson has a double-plus fastball, a pair of plus breaking pitches, and an above-average change. The issue is that he struggles to tap into the raw ability of his pitches due to long arm action that leads to inconsistent command, though his control has shown well. The Rays kept him at Low-A all of 2021, so he will be moving deliberately as the Rays feel he is ready, as they have with many talented arms like him before. Season line: 93 2/3 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 33/115 BB/K.
Landon Knack, RHP – Knack was drafted by the Dodgers in the second round in the 2020 draft. He had a big jump in his stuff in his senior year of college, which brought plenty of intrigue to his draft stock. Knack’s stuff plus his funky delivery generates a ton of strikeouts, but he also repeats that delivery tremendously well and is able to pound the strike zone. He has a legit big-league fastball, averaging 93-95 and touching 97-98 with his heater with tremendous ability to locate the pitch throughout the zone. His slider and change definitely need work, but he’s shown an ability to manipulate the breaker as both a sharp, short-breaking slider and a sweeping slider. Knack could have high-leverage future as a reliever, but the Dodgers could be patient and develop his secondaries as a starter. Season line: 62 1/3 IP, 3.18 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 8/82 BB/K.
Jared Koenig, LHP – Koenig was drafted in the 35th round out of high school but chose to college. He went undrafted after college and spent multiple years pitching in independent ball before the Athletics signed him in 2020. Now 27, Koenig has spent the season at Double-A. Koenig is a three-pitch pitcher, working around 90 with his fastball with a slider/cutter hybrid that he manipulates well and a curve that is probably his best pitch. Koenig’s mix from the left side could potentially have a future in the majors as a swingman/long relief option, but unless he either ticks up his control to an elite level or adds a plus pitch, he won’t be a starter at the MLB level. Season line: 121 1/3 IP, 3.26 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 43/100 BB/K.
Connor Lunn, RHP – The Cardinals selected Lunn out of Southern Cal in the 11th round of the 2019 draft. Lunn has been a consistent starter this season, ranking as one of the top innings throwers in all of minor league baseball. Lunn will struggle to reach a back-rotation projection with a fastball that tops out at 92 along with an average breaking pitch and change. He has ironed out control concerns and repeats his delivery significantly better. That could allow Lunn to see more growth in his stuff as the Cardinals work with him. Season line: 120 1/3 IP, 3.96 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 20/121 BB/K.
Sean Mooney, RHP – The Twins drafted Mooney out of St. John’s in 2019 in the 12th round. He was recovering from Tommy John surgery when the Twins drafted him, so his pitching this year has been handled gingerly to protect his arm as he returns. Mooney doesn’t light up a radar gun, working in the low-90s at his best, but he has double-plus control and tremendous movement on his fastball that allows him to earn a hefty amount of strikeouts. Mooney showed some control struggles early on this year, which is not surprising for someone returning from TJS. Twins contacts appear comfortable projecting significant growth with Mooney’s raw stuff and a backend starter projection for him. Season line: 42 IP, 2.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 23/71 BB/K.
Jeremy Pena, SS – Pena’s father Geronimo Pena spent seven years in the majors as a backup infielder. His son was a third round selection by the Astros in 2018 after attending college at Maine. He made a big impression in his first full season in 2019, with many considering Pena a potential replacement for Carlos Correa if he walked in free agency after 2021. After losing the pandemic year and most of this season due to wrist surgery, Pena is likely not going to be handed the shortstop job by Houston, but he could be a guy that could impress in the Arizona Fall League and really change his organization’s mind. His play in 2021 has been incredibly impressive, and it’s very likely he’ll spend a lot of 2022 at the major league level. Season line: .319/.373/.511, 94 AB, 4 HR, 6 SB, 6/25 BB/K.
Brayan Rocchio, IF – Overshadowed in the Cleveland 2017 international class that may go down as one of the best in franchise history, Rocchio moved quickly into advanced short-season leagues due to his high baseball IQ. His high instincts allow him to out-perform his raw abilities both offensively and defensively. He’s worked hard to prove himself at shortstop, but with a glut at the position in the Cleveland system, Rocchio has moved to other positions and stood out for his adaptability. He’s also added strength while not sacrificing his above-average speed, allowing him to drive balls without selling out his swing for power. Season line: .277/.347/.462, 437 AB, 15 HR, 21 SB, 33/106 BB/K.
Johan Rojas, OF – The buzz was strong out of spring training on Rojas. He is an elite double-plus defender and a definite plus runner. He’s also got raw plus power in his frame, but the big question was whether he could polish it all together and bring the package together. He’s definitely taken a big step toward that in his first season at full-season ball this year. Rojas has flown under the radar because he was a $10,00 signee in 2018, but he’s certainly making himself well-known now and will very likely show up on quite a few top-100 lists this offseason. Season line: .260/.328/.411, 377 AB, 11 HR, 34 SB, 33/76 BB/K.
Ian Seymour, LHP – Seymour was very intriguing coming into the 2020 draft as he was a “college lefty” for Virginia Tech coming into the 2020 season before his stuff ticked up notably. Seymour works 91-93 with his fastball, touching 94-95 with a slider/cutter hybrid that added velocity and bite in the spring of 2020 and has continued to develop. His change is certainly a plus pitch as well. Seymour has an unconventional delivery, which keeps hits low as hitters struggle to pick up the ball, but it does lead to many scouts worrying about Seymour as a potential reliever. He’s pushed up the Rays system quickly this year, despite not being assigned until late June from extended spring. Seymour is the type of arm the Rays have done very well developing of late, so keep an eye on him moving forward. Season line: 55 1/3 IP, 1.95 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 19/87 BB/K.
Tahnaj Thomas, RHP – Thomas was originally signed by Cleveland as an infielder, but he was converted to the mound before being traded to the Pirates. He’s gained velocity progressively as he’s learned to manage his big frame through his delivery. Thomas’s best secondary is a slider that can work in multiple ways. He has been working to firm up his slider shape this season and also develop a consistent off-speed pitch. At this point, struggles with anything but his fastball has allowed Thomas to be hit hard. The pace at which he’s allowed home runs this season would equate to over 40 allowed in a 200-inning season. Many have wondered about Thomas potentially being funneled to the bullpen, and this season’s struggles with his secondary options may expedite a full-time move to the bullpen, though certainly the Pirates have not given up on Thomas yet. Season line: 60 2/3 IP, 5.19 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 35/62 BB/K.
Miguel Vargas, 3B/2B – Vargas was originally born in Cuba, but he defected and signed with the Dodgers in 2017. He has shown advanced contact ability and raw power since he debuted with the Dodgers org, but he’s been working on refining his eye at the plate and tapping into that power in-game. Defensively, Vargas certainly has enough arm to work at third base and definitely has the hands, but he’s got fringe-average range at the position. The Dodgers have been working with Vargas at second as well this year, and using modern shifting, his quality hands could be covered with defenders who have excellent range alongside him, but he could also end up forced to first base, where his power would become more important. The ability in 2021 to tap into his power in game more in 2021, especially as he’s reached the upper minors, is a big advancement for Vargas. Season line: .317/.380/.519, 482 AB, 22 HR, 11 SB, 45/89 BB/K.
Norge Vera, RHP – Vera was considered one of the elite pitching prospects to come out of Cuba in recent years when the White Sox signed him in February for $1.5 million. He’s reached the upper-90s with his fastball but typically sits 92-95 with his four-seamer and 91-94 with his two-seamer. He showed a very effective splitter in international competition as well as a slider and change, but as the White Sox work with Vera on his delivery and work on his physicality, he has focused on his fastballs and slider, though it’s certainly feasible that his change and split could both be brought into the mix again in 2022. Season line: 15 2/3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 4/27 BB/K.
Hayden Wesneski, RHP – The Yankees nabbed Wesneski out of Sam Houston State in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. He pitched in relief only in his draft season before moving into the rotation this year. He’s come out of the pandemic season with a tremendous five-pitch mix that has him projected as a mid-rotation starter. He features a four-seam fastball that sits 92-94 and can touch 96. He loses a tick of velocity but adds a ton of sink with his sinker, which is his best pitch. He works with a cutter, slider, and a change to keep hitters from both sides off balance, though none is a pure plus pitch. He has a steady, repeatable delivery with a mix of offerings that are all 45-55 pitches. Season line: 119 1/3 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 31/139 BB/K.