Welcome back to the 6-3-21 edition of our new series, 2021 MILB Prospect Notes.
The 2021 season was the first time most prospects have played in an actual game since the end of the 2019 season. Like with position players, pitchers continued to develop. There was an opportunity to reduce the wear and tear on their arm, refine their mechanics and even develop a new pitch. The first month of the minor league season has produced plenty of surprises-both good and bad. This week we are looking at pitchers who started the year strong.
Here is a link to the top 100 prospects from Fangraphs prior to the 2018 season.
Shohei Ohtani was already a star in Japan so he was not really a prospect. Of the next nine, five (Acuna, Vlad Jr, Eloy, Bichette, and Tucker) are hitters that seem to be well on their way to being worthy of their ranking. Looking at the top pitchers so many have had major injuries that have delayed their progress (Whitley, Reyes, Honeywell, Kopech, and McKay) or just struggled (Keller and Wright). There are certainly highly ranked hitters that have disappointed (Robles, Brinson, and Andujar) and pitchers who have worked out (Buehler and Burnes) but the track record favors hitters. As a result, in a dynasty league, when I acquire an elite prospect, it is normally a position player. I like to use a volume approach with pitching prospects.
The following teams have really stood out recently, both in developing pitching prospects and identifying pitchers that can succeed in their organization.
- Baltimore Orioles
- Cleveland Indians
- Houston Astros
- Kansas City Royals
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Miami Marlins
- San Francisco Giants
- Seattle Mariners
- Tampa Bay Rays
When looking for dynasty sleeper pitching prospects in a deep league, I look most closely at pitchers in these organizations.
2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 6-3-21
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Nick Lodolo (Team: CIN Age: 23 Throws: L Level: AA): The first pitcher off the board in the 2019 draft, Lodolo was a high draft pick in 2016 by the Pirates but did not sign and went to Texas Christian. Lodolo did not walk anyone in 18.1 innings as a pro in 2019. He has the reputation for having a high floor, but with three above-average pitches, the ceiling is high as well. To begin the 2021 season, Lodolo has allowed one earned run in his first 22.2 innings and was dominant in three of his first four starts.
Alek Manoah (TOR 23 R MLB): Since we last saw Manoah in 2019, he appears to have transformed from a very good prospect to an elite major league prospect with top of the rotation upside. Manoah was dominant in spring training; three minor league starts and his MLB debut. Th slider is the pitch that seems to have gone from an average to plus pitch to go along with a mid-nineties four-seam fastball and sinker.
Max Meyer (MIA 22 R AA): The first pitcher off the board in the 2020 draft, Meyer is a hard thrower despite only being 6’0” tall. However, it is his slider that has a chance to be one of the best pitches in baseball. He is still developing a changeup as his third pitch. Meyer has been strong in three of his first four starts in 2021.
Max Meyer was unhittable today.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 30, 2021
Grayson Rodriguez (BAL 22 R AA): The Dan Duquette regime in Baltimore was not great at drafting or player development, but they left two nice presents for Mike Elias with their last two first-round picks. In 2018 the Orioles selected Rodriguez with the eleventh overall pick which was earlier than he was expected to go. Rodriguez added a highly effective changeup and was terrific in the Sally League in 2019.
He was dominant in five starts in 2021 at High A and earned a quick promotion to AA. Rodriguez has the potential for four above-average pitches.
Have a night, Grayson Rodriguez!!
5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 11 K
— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) May 15, 2021
Simeon Woods Richardson (TOR 20 R AA): Woods-Richardson was not yet eighteen when the Mets selected him with their second pick in 2018. Outside of struggling during the month of May in 2019, Woods-Richardson has been consistently outstanding. He looks to have all the characteristics to be a solid major league starter by next season. Woods-Richardson is currently on Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Cole Winn (TEX 21 R AA): There are only a handful of prospects in baseball with upside than Winn. Despite only 68.2 innings of pro experience and mixed results in 2019, the Rangers assigned Winn to AA and he has prospered. Winn has four solid offerings and has only allowed ten hits and ten walks in 27.2 innings. He is a top-ten pitching prospect.
Shane Baz (TB 21 R AA): One of the hardest throwers in baseball. Baz was acquired in the infamous Chris Archer trade with Pirates. Baz has previously always had a walk percentage in the double figures. So far in 2021, he is among the minor league leaders with a walk percentage under three percent. If Baz can maintain this type of control, he has a chance to be elite although his longest outing as a pro is only 5.1 innings.
Roasnys Contreras (PIT 21 R AA): He got to a fast start after being acquired in the package the Pirates received for Jameson Taillon. Contreras has a good understanding of how to pitch for his age. He is a solid bet to become the fourth starter but does not have the front-end starter upside of someone like his former teammates, Luis Medina and Luis Gil.
Luis Frias (ARI 23 R AA): Frias is a converted infielder who got attention for his upside during his first season stateside in 2018. He has continued to improve and was dominant in his first two starts of the season in 2021 at high A earning a quick promotion. Frias throws in the upper nineties with a curveball and changeup that flash potential.
Hunter Greene (CIN 21 R AA): It was 1,014 days from Greene’s last appearance when he hurt his arm in 2018 until he returned in a real game in 2021. There was a lot of talk that his fastball was too straight and that he lacked secondary pitches. His AA assignment seemed aggressive.
However, Greene has been outstanding in his first five starts and re-established himself as an elite prospect who could form a nice one-two punch with Nick Lodolo in the future. Clearly, Greene and the Reds were able to use the time off to refine his pitches and get better.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 29, 2021
Luis Gil (NYY 22 R AA): Medina had advanced quickly after making his stateside debut in 2018. In AA, after only three starts at High A at the end of 2019, Gil has more than met the challenge so far. He is striking out 42 percent of hitters while reducing his walk percentage to eight. Gil can throw in the mid to upper nineties and his secondary offerings are improving.
DL Hall (BAL 22 L AA): I saw Hall pitch many times in 2019. It is elite stuff that appears to have gotten better during the layoff. He is now throwing in the upper nineties with a curveball and changeup that flash plus. Hall needs to improve his efficiency and command to become more than a five-inning pitcher. Hall struggled in his third start of 2021 where he appeared to get squeezed by the umpire but otherwise has looked sharp.
Jackson Kowar (KC 24 R AAA): While three college pitchers from the Royals 2018 draft (Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, and Daniel Lynch) have made, their major league debut, the Royals have been more patient with Kowar.
Kowar was the second in the draft class to reach AA (three weeks after Singer), but the Royals kept Kowar at the alternate training site for all 2020 and have not called him up despite an impressive six-start stretch in AAA to begin 2021. Kowar has a mid-nineties fastball with a plus changeup. He has made improvements to his curveball giving him a legitimate third weapon.
Luis Medina (NYY 22 R High A): Medina has always had great stuff with a fastball that reaches triple digits, and a curve and changeup that flash plus. However, command and control have always been a major issue. In 2021, he has made major improvements to his strikeout percentage (25.6 percent career to 44.3 percent) and walk percentage (17.5 percent career to 13.6 percent).
Medina will need to continue to improve his control to become a major league starter, but if he stays healthy it is top of the rotation upside with a floor as a high leverage reliever.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 9, 2021
First Full Pro Season (College)
Logan T Allen (CLE 22 L High A): It can be confusing since the Indians selected Allen in the third round of the 2020 draft out of Florida International and they already had a lefthanded pitcher in their organization by the same name.
Allen was a two-way player in college that is slightly undersized. Allen has been consistently strong in four outings at Lake County. On the season, he has only allowed two earned runs in 21.2 innings with 0.88 WHIP.
Kyle Brnovich (BAL 23 R High A): The second Kyle B that the Orioles acquired from the Angels in the Dylan Bundy deal. Brnovich was a 2019 eighth-round draft pick from Elon which had an innovative pitching program on a staff that included George Kirby. Brnovich was let down by his fielding in his fourth start, but on the season, he has a 0.89 WHIP. His most interesting pitch is a nasty knuckle curve.
Matt Canterino (MIN 23 R High A): Even without the 2020 season, High A seems like a conservative assignment for a 2nd round draft pick from 2019 that threw 289.1 innings in college. Canterino has done his part with a 0.72 WHIP 17.50 strikeouts per nine innings. Canterino has a nice four-pitch mix and should be promoted to the upper minors soon.
Cade Cavalli (WAS 22 R High A): A big guy who was a two-way player at the University of Oklahoma. Cavalli is striking out a lot of batters (41 percent) and when they do hit it, they are hitting it on the ground (55 percent ground balls). Cavalli only threw 101.1 innings in college but he has a solid four-pitch mix and has improved his command.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 30, 2021
Xzavion Curry (CLE 22 R Low A): An undersized 2019 seven-round draft pick from Georgia Tech who has been dominant to begin 2021. Curry has been striking out 40 percent of batters with a 0.63 WHIP while holding hitters to a .135 batting average. He appears to be too advanced for low A hitters.
Reid Detmers (LAA 22 L AA): Thru five starts as a pro, Detmers has struggled with consistency but he has had a few exceptional outings. Detmers has some deception in his delivery that makes it difficult to pick up the ball. He was the tenth overall pick in the 2020 draft after a great Sophomore year and three starts as a Junior at Louisville before the remainder of the season was canceled.
John Doxakis (TB 22 L Low A): Only the Rays have the pitching depth to not have room above Low A for an SEC standout who they selected in the second round two years ago. As expected Doxakis has been dominant with a 0.45 WHIP and a 38 percent strikeout minute walk rate. Hopefully, he will get a chance at a more appropriate level soon.
Jake Eder (MIA 22 L AA): The abbreviate 2020 college season did not allow scout their normal looks at prospects. Eder was getting a chance to be a full-time starter for the first time but was rather ordinary in four starts for Vanderbilt and the Marlins selected him in the fourth round.
It was surprising the Marlins assigned him to AA to begin the year. He has walked a few too many batters but has proven exceedingly difficult to hit (.135 BAA). He has shown an outstanding curveball. Eder has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the first month of the season.
Back on top of the L-EDER-board.
Jake Eder Ks 8 and is back on top of the Double-A South strikeout rankings! pic.twitter.com/vzOauPDOk7
— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) June 2, 2021
Ethan Elliott (SD 24 L High A): A small college senior sign tenth round, draft pick who received just a five-thousand-dollar bonus. Elliott relies more on deception than velocity but has a 35.6 percent strikeout minus walk rate while holding batters to a .131 batting average.
Cole Henry (WAS 21 R High A): A 2020 second-round pick in 2020 out of LSU that has gotten off to a nice start to his pro career. Henry has struck out 37.2 percent of batters while limiting hitters to a .192 batting average against. Henry’s college career was limited to 77 innings, but he looked good in 2020 in four starts before the pandemic.
Henry has a mid-nineties fastball and potential above-average curveball with a changeup that he is still working on. Henry has a chance to be AA for the second half of the 2021 season.
Alec Marsh (KC R 23 AA): A 2019 competitive balance pick from Arizona State who added a lot of velocity since turning pro. He is now throwing in the mid to upper nineties. Marsh has struck out 41 percent of batters and has a 2.52 xFIP through four starts.
Ryan Pepiot (LAD 23 R AA): Pepiot was the Dodgers' third-round pick in 2019 and reportedly was very impressive at the alternate training site in 2020. The Dodgers seem to slowly build up innings with their pitching prospects more than other teams and Pepiot has not pitched more than four innings a start. Pepiot has increased his velocity up to the mid-nineties and his best pitch is his plus changeup with an average slider and curve.
TJ Shook (MIL 23 R High A): A college junior who was expected to be a mid-round selection in the MLB draft was impacted by the changes in 2020 as much as anyone. Shook was mostly a relief pitcher at the University of South Carolina and in a typical year, he would have had a full season to improve his draft stock. However, it is likely that Shook would have been in line to receive a signing bonus in the $200,000 range. The MLB draft was only five rounds in 2020 and Shook was not selected. As a result, the maximum signing bonus he could receive as an undrafted free agent was $10,000.
Shook has been strong in three starts in 2021 but has not pitched since May 19th. While he is on the active roster, there is no information available on any injury.
Spencer Strider (ATL 22 RHP High A): Strider’s college career at Clemson was abbreviated due to Tommy John surgery and then in 2020 when he was finally healthy due to the pandemic. The Braves selected Strider in the fourth round, and he began the 2021 season in Low A by striking out 32 of 52 batters to earn a quick promotion to High A.
Cole Wilcox (TB 21 R Low A): Wilcox signed a huge over-slot deal after the Padres selected him as a draft-eligible sophomore in the third round of the 2020 draft. The Padres then traded him in the Blake Snell deal. Wilcox got off to a nice start in 2020 for the University of Georgia in the shortened season.
The Rays have so much pitching depth and Wilcox did not pitch many innings in college, so he is beginning his pro career in Low A. He has all the tools to be a major league starter. Hopefully, he will be moving up a level soon.
Brandon Williamson (SEA 23 L High A): A 6’ 6” JUCO transfer to Texas Christian in 2019 where he played with Nick Lodolo, Williamson was very inconsistent. He was returning from a serious hip injury and struggled to maintain his velocity. However, the Mariners saw enough good skills to select Williamson in the second round.
Williamson has been fantastic in the first month of the 2021 season. He struck out 50.6 percent of batters while holding hitter to a .132 batting average.
First Full Pro Season (High School)
Mick Abel (PHI 19 R Low A): Abel may have as much upside as any pitching prospect. Considering he is just one year removed from high school, all we have to work with are glimpses. However, he is a name to watch closely.
Quinn Priester (PIT 20 R High A): A 2019 high school first-round draft pick, Priester has gotten stronger and added velocity. His calling card is a nasty curveball. After two mediocre starts to begin the year, Priester has had consecutive scoreless five innings starts. The Pirates have a nice core of prospects in Greensboro and Bradenton, but Priester plays a big part in their future.
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) May 5, 2021
Pop Up Prospects
Braxton Ashcraft (PIT 21 R High A): Ashcraft was a well-regarded high school pitching prospect who the Pirates selected in the second round of the 2018 draft. Ashcraft struggled in short-season leagues his first couple of years and fell off the prospect map. However, under the new Pirates regime, Ashcraft emerged in High A in 2021 and has had a strong start.
Jonathan Bermudez (HOU 25 L AA): No organization in baseball does a better job of finding popup pitchers prospects than the Astros. Bermudez was drafted in the twenty-third round in 2018 from Puerto Rico at Saint Leo University in Florida. Like most Astros pitching he finds success up in the zone. Bermudez is likely a reliever but his 39.6 strikeout-minus-walk percentage in the upper minors is impressive.
Kyle Bradish (BAL 24 R AAA): Orioles Director of Scouting Matt Blood raised eyebrows before the season began when he said Bradish belonged in the same conversation as much higher rated pitcher prospects, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall. Bradish was the Angels' fourth-round draft pick in 2018 and was part of the package the Orioles received for Dylan Bundy.
Bradish was dominant in three AA starts to begin 2021 and quickly was promoted to AAA. While Bradish has improved since joining Baltimore, the extent of those improvements has yet to be seen. He has upped his velocity and wields a solid four-pitch mix. Questions linger regarding his command.
Matt Frisbee (SF 24 R AA): A fifteenth round pick in 2018 from UNC Greenboro. Frisbee had a solid season in 2019 primarily in High A. Frisbee had a 0.41 WHIP in five starts in AA to earn a promotion to AAA. He reportedly began throwing a splitter this year. The splitter has transformed Kevin Gausman from an average pitcher to an ace.
After allowing a hit to start the game, Matt Frisbee retired 21 in row with 8 K’s on Sunday vs Reading pic.twitter.com/kjIVshZv92
— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) June 2, 2021
Jake Latz (TEX 25 L AA): He has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Latz college career consisted of 8.1 innings for LSU. He transferred to Kent State but never pitched for them. As a pro since 2017, he had only thrown 134.2 inning coming into this year. Latz caught my eye when he was healthy during the first half of 2019.
Starting with the 2019 season, Latz has thrown 84 innings, allowing only 41 hits, with 32 walks and 107 strikeouts. He works both side of the plate with a fastball that can get to the mid-nineties with a quality changeup and curveball.
Jake Latz was DEALING last night. pic.twitter.com/omG9wrRC7B
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) June 2, 2021
Angel Macuare (HOU 21 R Low A): The Astros signed the husky Macuare as part of a large 2016 international free agent class for $695k. Macuare has done little to impress in games prior to this year. However, he is off to strong start in 2021, his first exposure to full season ball.
Glenn Otto (NYY 25 R AA): It seems like Otto has bound around forever. Otto is big, talented and frequently injured. Otto is a 2017 draft pick that has 113 career innings. He is on this list primarily for his May 20th outing where he struckout fourteen batters. If Otto can stay healthy and maintain his current 5.9 percent walk rate, he could factor into the Yankees plans.
Under the Radar
Jonathan Bowlan (KC 24 R AA): Part of the Royals 2018 college pitching draft extravaganza. Bowlan was excellent in three starts before injuring his arm in his fourth game. Bowlan is a sum is greater than the parts type of pitcher. Unfortunately, he will require Tommy John surgery and will be out until the latter part of 2022.
Brett Conine (HOU 24 R AAA): A typically unheralded (2018 11th round draft pick) Astros pitching prospect that is somewhere between a starter and a reliever with excellent stats (career 2.03 ERA, 1.05 WHIP .209 BAA and 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings).
— Sugar Land Space Cowboys (@SLSpaceCowboys) May 15, 2021
Tucker Davidson (ATL 25 L AAA): A 2016 nineteenth round draft pick out of junior college in Texas, Davidson began his pro career as a relief pitcher but was vastly improved in 2019. Davidson is now throwing in the mid to upper nineties and made progress with his command. This year Davidson has been great in three AAA starts with a quality major league start mixed in.
Jassel De La Cruz (ATL 24 R AAA): It is a lively arm with considerable reliever risk. De La Cruz signed with the Braves in 2015 and at the beginning of 2019 he was still in the Sally League. He has a nasty fastball and slider combination and has greatly improved his command. De La Cruz is still building up his pitch count this year. He threw a season high 73 pitches in his last start.
Lyon Richardson (CIN 21 R High A): Great name for an athlete. The Reds are doing interesting things with pitching prospects under Driveline’s Kyle Boddy. Richardson was a second round pick of high school in 2018 and has the size and power arm of someone picked in that range. Richardson had an up and down season 2019 in the Midwest League but impressed at the alternate training site.
He got off to a nice start in 2021 but is out with an elbow injury that is considered minor.
Elvin Rodriguez (DET 23 R AA): Rodriguez was acquired from the Angels in 2017 in the Justin Upton trade. He has always put-up respectable numbers at a young age with underwhelming reports on his stuff. In 2021 Rodriguez had consecutive appearances where he did not allow a hit totaling 10.1 innings. Rodriguez last pitched on May 23rd. There are no reports of an injury.
Tony Santillan (CIN 24 R AAA): A solid prospect heading into 2019 who struggled with command and health. Santillan has had to wait until 2021 to prove that he is better than the 2019 version.
In his first five starts in 2021 Santillan has been impressive. In 2019 Santillan’s strikeout minus walk rate was just 8.2 percent. So far in 2021 the strikeout minus walk rate is 23.1 percent. He projects as an innings eating back end starter.
Drew Strotman (TB 24 R AAA): Primarily a reliever in college, Strotman got off to nice start to his pro career after the Rays drafted him in the fourth round in 2017. However, he hurt his arm in May 2018 and after undergoing Tommy John surgery he returned in the second half of 2019.
Despite only having 70 IP in full season ball, Strotman made the AAA rotation for the Rays organization whose pitching depth is quite deep. Strotman has been strong in four of his first five starts. His cutter and slider are strong secondary pitches.
Josh Winder (MIN 24 R AA): A velocity increase has made Winder an intriguing prospect. He was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018 out Virginia Military Institute who has a solid season in 2019 in the Midwest League. Despite skipping High A, Winder has been consistently strong for in 2021 and displays a solid four pitch mix.
Twins prospect Josh Winder tonight: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K. He has a 1.48 ERA so far this season for Wichita.#MNTwins
Here he is striking out the side in the third inning: pic.twitter.com/qKT62Cd3fz
— Tom Froemming (@TFTwins) May 30, 2021
Young International Free Agent Signing
Eury Perez (MIA 18 R Low A): The Marlins started Perez on Opening Day despite being the youngest player on an active roster, so you know they were excited to show him off. Perez is very tall (6’8”) which enables him to pitch downhill. He was a mid-range signing for $200k part as part of the 2019 international free agent class.
Perez is averaging less than fifty pitches per outing but has been highly effective. Obviously, Perez has a long way to go, but the sky is the limit.
Would you like an easy way to get excited about Eury Perez? Peep this ⬇️
CH 88mph, 1840 RPM
FB 95mph, 2477 RPM, heavy sink and ASR
CB 78mph, 2513 RPM
— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) May 26, 2021
Tahnaj Thomas (PIT 21 R High A): The Indians signed Thomas out of the Bahamas as a seventeen old. They then traded him to the Pirates two years later. Thomas is still quite raw but has impressive physical skills; his move from High A over Low A surprised me.
Thomas is primarily a two-pitch pitcher at this point with a mid-nineties fastball and a slider that flashes potential. While he struggled on May 26th, Thomas has been solid otherwise, although the walks are a concern. There is plenty of reliever risk at this point.
Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers