2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 6-25-21

by Mike Schneider
2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 6-25-21

Welcome to the 2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 6-25-21.

This week we will discuss why it is not only right for organizations to provide minor league players with better working conditions, it is also smart.

We will then look at a couple of recent MLB drafts that are looking like huge wins for two teams.  Finally we will go over the coming and goings from June 15th through June 22nd.

2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 6-25-21

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Working Conditions in the Minor Leagues

In the last year, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the low pay and poor working conditions for minor league players.  The Advocates for Minor Leaguers @milbAdvocates were formed last year to provide a voice for minor league baseball players.  They have been successful in publicizing when minor leaguers are being treated poorly and getting policies changed for the benefit of minor league players.

Clearly, major league organizations have a moral obligation to treats their minor league players better. However, what I would like to highlight is how shortsighted it is financially for an MLB team not to give its minor leaguers every chance to be successful.  It is in the organization's interests to optimize minor league player's tool. These are athletes so eating right and sleeping well are important. In addition, getting the best athletic training as well as baseball coaching is essential.

While it is true that only a small percentage of minor leaguers are going to make it in the majors, let’s look at how much a major league team can save when a prospect makes the majors and is a productive player in his first few major league seasons.  I will use the Houston Astros as an example.

PlayerAgeSigningDate SignedBonus2021 SalaryTotal Contract
Alex Bregman272nd overall pick in the 2015 draft6-25-15$5,900,000$11,000,0005 years $100,000,000 contact signed prior to the 2019 season
Cristian Javier24International Free Agent3-19-15$10,000$620,400
Framber Valdez27International Free Agent3-19-15$10,000$637,300One year.
Jake Odorizzi31MLB Free Agent3-6-21$6,000,000$9,000,000Three years for $23,000,000 thru 2023 but full of incentives and a player option after 2022.
Jose Altuve31International Free Agent3-16-18$21,000,000$29,000,0007 years $163,500,000 through 2024.
Jose Urquidy26International Free Agent3-9-15$100,000$604,200One year.
Kyle Tucker245th overall pick in the 2015 MLB draft6-15-15$4,000,000$624,300One year.
Justin Verlander38Contract ExtensionTraded to the Astros on 9-1-2017$0$33,000,0002 year $66,000,000 extension for 2020 and 2021.
Luis Garcia24International Free Agent7-2-17$20,000$580,100One year.
Michael Brantley34MLB Free Agent1-20-21$0$16,000,000Two years $32,000,0000 expires after 2022 season.
Yordan Alvarez24 on 6-27International Free Agent by the Dodgers7-15-16. Traded to Astros on 7-30-16. $2,000,000 paid by the Dodgers$609,000One year.
Zach Greinke37MLB Free Agent signed by the Diamondbacks 12-4-15. Traded to the Astros on 7-31-19.$18,000,000$35,,000,000
6 years $206,500,000 expired after the 2021 season.

Through June 23rd the Astros have the best record in the American League despite losing future hall fame pitcher Justin Verlander for the entire season.  An integral reason for the Astros success is four young pitchers (Luis Garcia, Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and Framber Valdez) who combined received a signing bonus of $140,000 and whose total 2021 salary together is $2,442,000.  These four pitchers have pitched a total of 242.1 innings pitched with a 2.87 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. These four have a chance to continue to be huge bargains for the next few years.

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Not only are the Astros paying Verlander and  Zach Greinke huge salaries, they are also had to send Detroit and Arizona a number of prospects in order to complete the trades.

For years when Jose Altuve was younger, he one of the best bargains in baseball,  but now he paid like the elite player he had been since 2014.

Since there are now caps on international free agents and the major league draft that are favorable to the teams, even high draft picks like Alex Bregman or big money international free agent signings like Pedro Leon can be overall huge savings to major league organizations in the early year of their major league careers.

The Astros have excelled in recent years at developing unheralded pitchers. On the international market, many teams are only focused on very young players, the Astros have found a niche with late bloomers or leftovers that are unsigned as sixteen and seventeen-year-olds.  Framber, Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia were all over nineteen when then signed with the Astros.

By having productive players including Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez that are earning a fraction of what they are actually worth, it enables the Astros to afford to pay the big salaries to veterans like Verlander, Greinke, Altuve and Brantley.

The economics of baseball make it in the interest of major league organizations to provide their minor league players with everything they need to develop in to impact major league players.  The money saved by organizations not feeding all their minor leaguers properly or not providing decent housing accommodations is quite small compared to savings if just one prospect turns into a productive major leaguer early in their career.

Underrated MLB Drafts

Shortly after the MLB draft, there are a number of articles that are published that grade each team's draft.  At the time neither the Yankees 2019 draft or the Cardinals 2020 draft were given particularly high grades or considered excited. However, both these drafts are looking very strong now.

2019 New York Yankees Draft

Anthony Volpe was high school teammates with the better known, Jack Leiter.  He was considered a bit of a reach when the Yankees selected him with the 30th overall pick.  However, Volpe has been a pleasant surprise in 2021.  He has an advanced player for a high school draft pick making his pro debut and has an extremely well-rounded game.  Volpe is walking more than he is striking out while leading the league in home runs and he is fourth in the league in stolen bases.  He is projected to be a plus defensive shortstop.

Ken Waldichuk, a fifth-round pick from St Mary's in California, began 2021 in High A with 30.2 scoreless innings which earned a promotion to AA.  Hayden Wesneski, a sixth-round pick from Sam Houston State, was not far behind Waldichuk.  Wesneski allowed six earned runs in 36.1 innings and also earned a promotion to AA.

Josh Smith, an infielder who was a second-round pick from LSU, began the year on the injured list with a hand issue but only needed eleven games with six home runs to earn a promotion from Low A to High A.

2020 St Louis Cardinal Draft

When the Cardinals selected third baseman, Jordan Walker with the 21st overall pick he was considered a promising power-hitting who was likely going to take a while to develop.  However, Walker has been terrific as a nineteen-year-old in Low A.  He missed a couple of weeks with a wrist injury but in the 23 games that he played it, Walker is walking as much as he is striking out and he has a .515 wOBA.

The Cardinals stayed in the prep ranks with their second pick, taking Masyn Wynn who was considered a legitimate two-way prospect.  The Cardinals are only playing Winn as a shortstop.  After struggling in May, Winn has been very good in June.  Winn has power and speed potential and projects to be a plus defender at shortstop.

Alec Burleson was a two-way player in college at East Carolina who the Cardinals felt his hitting would benefit from not worrying about pitching.  It only took Burleson eleven games to earn a quick promotion from High A to AA and Burleson continued to be productive at AA.  He is a corner outfielder so it is essential that he continue to hit for power.

Comings and Goings

There are notable transactions for the period from June 15th thru June 22nd.

Prospects Changing Levels

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The big headliner was the MLB debut of Wander Franco but it was a very busy week with a number of early-season standouts getting promoted up a level.

DateOrganizationProspect FromTo
6/15/21YankeesLuis MedinaHigh AAA
6/15/21RaysShane BazAAAAA
6/15/21RaysPeyton BattenfieldHigh AAA
6/15/21NationalsCade CavalliHigh AAA
6/15/21YankeesLuis GillAAAAA
6/15/21YankeesKen WaldichukHigh AAA
6/15/21YankeesHayden WesneskiHigh AAA
6/15/21RaysJohn DoxakisLow AHigh A
6/15/21MarlinsEdward CabreraLow AAA
6/16/21CubsCory AbbottAAAAAA
6/16/21DodgersMiguel VargasHigh AAA
6/16/21NationalsLuis GarciaAAAMLB
6/17/21RoyalsEdward OlivaresMLBAAA
6/17/21TigersMatt Manning AAAMLB
6/17/21RockiesRyan FeltnerHigh AAA
6/17/21BravesKyle MullerMLBAAA
6/18/21RangersTyler PhillipsAAAAA
6/18/21TwinsGilberto CelestinoMLBAAA
6/18/21MarinersBrandon WilliamsonHigh AAA
6/18/21Blue JaysAnthony KayAAAMLB
6/19/21TigersIsaac ParedesAAAMLB
6/19/21MarinersTaylor DollardLow AHigh A
6/20/21NationalsLuis GarciaMLBAAA
6/21/21AngelsChris RodriguezMLBAA
6/21/21BravesKyle MullerAAAMLB
6/21/21YankeesChris GittensMLBAAA
6/21/21DiamondbacksBryce JarvisHigh AAA
6/21/21RoyalsAngel ZerpaHigh AAA
6/22/21RaysWander FrancoAAAMLB
6/22/21BrewersEthan SmallAAAAA
6/22/21Braves Spencer StriderHigh AAA
6/22/21OriolesKyle StowersHigh AAA
6/22/21OriolesGunnar HendersonLow AHigh A
6/22/21PhilliesCasey MartinLow AHigh A
6/22/21NationalsDrew MendozaAAHigh A
6/22/21RedaGraham AshcraftHigh AAA

Prospects Coming Off the IL

Josh Jung finally made his 2021 debut after a foot injury. Ed Howard, Maikol Escotto and Austin Hendrick are very young prospects returning from minor injuries.

6/13/21RedsAustin HendrickLow A
6/15/21PiratesMaikol EscottoLow A
6/15/21RangersJosh JungAA
6/15/21OriolesYusniel DiazAA
6/16/21AthleticsAustin BeckHigh A
6/17/21CubsEd HowardLow A
6/17/21Red SoxTanner HouckAAA

Prospects Put on the IL

Nate Pearson, Nick Lodolo, DL Hall and Jhoan Duran are big-name pitching prospects added to the IL this week.  In many of these cases the seriousness of the injury is still being determined.

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6/14/21BrewersMario FelicianoAAA
6/15/21RedsNick LodoloAA
6/16/21OriolesD.L. HallAA
6/16/21DodgersKody Hoese AA
6/16/21RangersEvan CarterLow A
6/18/21OriolesTerrin VavraAA
6/19/21White SoxMatthew ThompsonLow A
6/20/21TwinsJhoan DuranAAA
6/22/21Blue JaysNate PearsonAAA

Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

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