2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 7-1-21

by Mike Schneider
2021 MilB Prospect Notes 7-1-21

Welcome to this week's 2021 Milb Prospect Notes 7-1-21.

The minor league reorganization has brought changes several. One change is the schedule. If you are a fan of a weekly routine, the new minor league schedule is for you. In order to reduce travel costs, teams have six-game series and are then off one day before beginning the next series.

For an unknown reason, the AAA West League plays series from Thursday to Tuesday with Wednesday as the travel day. Every other minor league team plays series from Tuesday to Sunday with Monday as a travel day. As a result, Monday is becoming the most common day for prospects to be promoted from one level to another.

I also want to mention to check out my Prospect Rankings, which goes 160+ players.

2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 7-1-21

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Strikeouts and Groundballs

For pitchers strikeouts are good and if the hitter does hit it, it is better if they hit it on the ground than in the air. I looked at the minor league pitchers with the highest percentage of batters that either struck out or hit it on the ground.

There is a minimum of 30 innings pitched and is through June 28th.  Here is the top 50.

What I like about this exercise is that a lot of the pitchers that have gotten a lot of attention are listed, but there are also several pitchers that are not well known and can be looked at closer.

For example, Connor Thomas of the Cardinals was a fifth-round pick in 2019 who is already in AAA. He has a ground ball rate of 69.4%.  Thomas has given up some hits and eight homers. However, he is an interesting deep sleeper especially considering the state of the Cardinals pitching rotation.

Despite walking 12.5 percent of batters, the Orioles DL Hall is still at 69.22% which means less than 20 percent of batters are hitting the ball in the air against Hall.

NameTeamLevelAgePercentage
Cole WilcoxTBRA2170.27%
D.L. HallBALAA2269.22%
Kody FunderburkMINA+2469.16%
Matt KrookNYYAAA2668.74%
Cruz NoriegaKCRA2368.60%
Nick LodoloCINAA2368.10%
Connor ThomasSTLAAA2367.51%
Aaron AshbyMILAAA2367.24%
Adam WolfDETA2466.80%
J.C. FlowersPITA+2366.46%
Shane DavisBALA2166.09%
Graham AshcraftCINA+2366.05%
Tylor MegillNYMAA2565.94%
Roansy ContrerasPITAA2165.86%
Jake BirdCOLAAA2565.32%
Justin BullockMILA2264.99%
Santiago FlorezPITA2164.87%
Caleb KilianSFGA+2464.84%
Tyler HerbSEAAA2964.75%
James ProctorCINA2264.63%
Jordan GoreMINA+2664.38%
Justin LaskoNYMA+2464.34%
Daniel EspinoCLEA2064.28%
Mitchell KilkennyCOLA2464.21%
Shane BazTBRAAA2264.16%
Jhony BritoNYYA+2364.16%
Hayden WesneskiNYYA+2364.15%
Cade CavalliWSNA+2263.77%
Sean HjelleSFGAA2463.74%
Connor JohnstoneATLAAA2663.69%
Brayan BelloBOSA+2263.62%
Drew RomBALA+2163.60%
Paul BlackburnOAKAAA2763.47%
Luis MedinaNYYA+2263.13%
Andrew LeeWSNAA2763.11%
Austin BergnerDETA2463.10%
Jake EderMIAAA2263.08%
Peyton BattenfieldTBRAA2363.02%
Will EthridgeCOLA2362.84%
Hunter BrownHOUAA2262.76%
Kyle HarrisonSFGA1962.66%
Louie VarlandMINA2362.66%
Scott EffrossCHCAAA2762.66%
Brandon WilliamsonSEAA+2362.48%
Reid DetmersLAAAA2162.39%
Garrett StallingsBALA+2362.38%
Darius VinesATLA+2362.33%
Tanner BurnsCLEA+2262.30%
Bryce ElderATLA+2262.29%
Kyle BradishBALAA2462.27%

Looking Back at the 2019 Carolina League

In 2019 I ran a blog Carolina Prospects. I was focused on one league with ten teams which is a lot different than covering all of the minor leagues. I knew the players on these ten teams on a different level than I know any players in 2021.

That season I found myself rooting for a lot of those players from the 2019 Carolina League and there has been a surprising number of those players doing well. Some of the players having strong seasons were not good in 2019 or players I dismissed as nice players in High A but not major league prospects.

I will provide a brief summary of players that were in the Carolina League in 2019 that are performing well in 2021.

Frederick Keys (Orioles)

My hometown team is no longer an affiliated team despite frequently leading the Carolina League in attendance.

In 2019 the top prospect on the team was lefthanded pitcher DL Hall who I saw many times. Hall has great stuff that has gotten even better since 2019.  While he has made improvements to his efficiency and command, it is still his biggest issue. Hall is currently on the IL with elbow tendinitis. Hall is currently ranked 59th in my prospect rankings.

Righthanded pitcher Blaine Knight was the Orioles third-round pick in 2018. He was an accomplished SEC pitcher at the University of Arkansas where he went 14-0 as a Junior.

Knight began 2019 in the Sally League where he was dominant in the first month of the season earning a promotion to High A with some fanfare. However, Knight was not good in Frederick (6.13 ERA and 1.59 WHIP) and fell off the prospect radar.

In 2021 Knight has had considerably more success at the Orioles new High A affiliate in Aberdeen, earning a quick promotion to AA Bowie where he has continued to pitch very well with a WHIP under one.

In 2019, lefthander Cameron Bishop only threw in the low nineties and had questionable command, so I had written him off as a prospect. However, at AA in 2021, Bishop has pitched well holding batters to a .2016  batting average against.

Patrick Dorrian was acquired in a mid-season trade in 2019 with the Pirates and did not appear to be anything but an organizational guy with an interesting backstory. Dorrian was drafted and signed by the Braves in 2014 and quit a few weeks later deciding he was not ready for pro ball. Dorrian went to JUCO and a division two school before signing with the Pirates. Dorian is among the league leaders in homers in AA with ten and has a .945 OPS while reportedly playing a solid third base.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals)

The Royals won the Carolina League championship in 2019 with a prospect-laden team.   The pitching prospects on the Blue Rocks were particularly good in 2019 but the big-hitting prospects all seemed to struggle with contact issues.

In 2019, first basemen, Nick Pratto and catcher, MJ Melendez were exposed. Pratto hit .191 and struck out 34.7 percent of the time. Melendez hit .163 and struck out 39.4 percent of the time.

The Royals sent both to a special hitting camp after the season and they had all of 2020 to work on their issues. Despite the lack of success in High A, both were assigned to AA Northwest Arkansas to begin 2021 and have been among the most improved prospects in baseball. Both among the league leader in home runs and made a significant improvement to both their strikeout and walk rate. Pratto is ranked 63rd and Melendez 132nd in my prospect rankings.

From the pitching staff, Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Tyler Zuber and Kris Bubic have been in the majors with mixed results. Righthander Jonathan Bowlan had gotten off to great start in AA this year before hurting his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers (Astros)

This team of largely unheralded pitchers struck out over eleven batters per nine innings. Cristian Javier and Bryan Abreu began the 2019 season with Fayetteville before earning early-season promotions. Both are now in the majors.

RHP Luis Garcia was promoted to Fayetteville on June 6, 2019. He struggled in July before an incredible stretch to end the season.  In his last seven appearances including the playoffs, Garcia struck out 73 batters in 39.1 innings while allowing 19 hits and 13 walks. Garcia made his major debut in 2020 and even was the opener in a playoff game. In 2021 Garcia has established himself as a regular major league starting pitcher and a rookie of the year candidate with an ERA under three and a 1.10 WHIP.

Righthander Brett Conine was a 2018 11th round draft pick who began 2019 in the Midwest League before getting promoted to Fayetteville on May 12. Conine was good in 63.1 innings with the Woodpeckers before spending the last few weeks of the season with AA Corpus Christi.  In 2021 Conine is pitching in AAA for the Sugar Land Skeeters.  Except for one start, Conine has been solid.

Jake Meyers was a 2017 13th round pick. He is a good defensive outfielder that showed some nice skills in 2019 but did not look like he was going to hit enough to be a real prospect. However, this year the doubles power has turned into homer power and Meyers is suddenly one of the best players in AAA with 14n homers, a .331 batter average and a .421 wOBA.

Despite making his pro debut in 2014, Bryan De La Cruz is only 24. It has been a slow climb up the minor league ladder for De La Cruz.  He began 2019 with the Woodpeckers where he was good but not great for 41 games before getting promoted to AA where he put up similar results.  De La Cruz in AAA in 2021 where he has a  .320/.374/.854 slash line. De La Cruz is not a base stealer and has limited power so he projects as a fourth outfielder.

Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers)

The Woodies were a dominant team at the first half of the season. Leody Taveras and Anderson Tejeda were surprisingly call up to the majors in 2020.

When I first heard of the first baseman, Curtis Terry he was hitting well in Spokane in the Northwest League in 2018.  However, his success was dismissed because it was a hitter's league and Terry was old for the level. Terry was a 13th round pick in 2015 that did not reach full-season ball until 2019 where he split the season between the Sally League and the Carolina League. However, Terry has just kept hitting and seems to get better and he moves up.   In 2021 has been one of the best and most consistent hitters in AAA. Terry is in a good place to get a shot with the rebuilding Rangers.

Outfielder Bubba Thompson was limited to 57 games to 2019 and when he did play he struggled. Thompson was a highly recruited football player so he did not focus solely of baseball until after signing with the Rangers. He is an exceptional athlete with all-around skills and he is playing much better in 2021 at AA Frisco. Thompson has a .273/.343/.813 slash line with four homers and ten steals in 42 games.

Right-handed reliever Peter Fairbanks was on the Wood Ducks for the first month of the season and was in the majors a month later. Fairbanks was traded to the Rays for Nick Solak and was pitching high leverage innings in the playoffs and World Series in 2020.

Lefty John King was coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2019 and made 14 starts for the Woodies with a WHIP under one. King got called up to the majors briefly in 2020 but this year he has established himself as a regular member of the Rangers bullpen where he won five games with four holds.

The diminutive infielder Yonny Hernandez has interesting leadoff skills. His strength is getting on base. Hernandez has three homers in almost 1,800 plate appearances. However, he had a .426 on base percentage in 72 games in the Carolina League in 2019 and is walking over 22% of the time in 2021 in AAA.

Cole Uvila' s story was the subject of season two of The Razed Sport Podcast which I highly recommend. I won't get into too much of his story other than to say he is a 27-year-old right-handed reliever that is in just his second full year as a pro. I make sure to check how Uvila is doing from time to time and he is eight for eight is save changes in AA.

Salem Red Sox

The best player on the Salem Red Sox in 2019 has been one of the talked about prospects in baseball in 2021.

In 2019, Jarren Duran hit .404 in April and .388 in May. I happened to be in attendance for his first two homers of the season but he only hit five the entire year in 2019. In 2021 Duran has 15 homers in 37 games in AAA and it seems to just be a matter of time before he is called up to the majors.

Outfielder Marcus Wilson has seemingly been around forever but is only 24. He is a good athlete that has shown glimpses of promise while in the Diamondbacks organization.  He was traded to the Red Sox for Blake Swihart in April of 2019. Wilson hit well in 45 games in the Carolina League in the middle of the year but struggled in AA Portland.  Wilson has good patience and has a .895 in 2021 in AAA Worcester.

Pedro Castellanos has a decent hit tool but as a first basemen he has to hit for more power. He has a long lean body that you can dream on.  Castellanos hit only one homer in 2018 in the Sally League and had one home on in the first half of 2019 with Salem, but hit eight homers in the second half of the year. In 2021 at AA Portland, Castellanos has seven homers in 38 games.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs)

The Cubs only had a handful of prospects that spent time in 2019 at Myrtle Beach and none have gotten off to a great start this year.

The start to LHP Brailyn Marquez' season has been delayed. He had COVID 19 in the spring and should be getting close to pitching.

Catcher Miguel Amaya has struggled at AA Tennessee although he is still walking a lot.

Lefthander Jack Patterson, who was a 32nd round draft pick and did not allow a run in 23.2 innings for Myrtle Beach before getting promoted, underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring.

Winston Salem Dash (White Sox)

The White Sox have had a productive system that is a big part of their major league success but there is not much left in the minor leagues.  Three-member of the core of the White Sox spent time in Winston Salem in 2019.

I saw Luis Robert hit two homers on opening day to begin his incredible season at three levels. Robert spent 19 games in the Carolina League and had a 306 wRC+ earning a quick promotion to AA Birmingham. Robert came in second in the AL rookie of the Year voting in 2020 but is currently on the IL with a hip injury.

Second basemen Nick Madrigal is out for the year after tearing his hamstring. He began 2019 with Winston Salem for the first 49 games before being promoted to AA Birmingham and finishing the year with AAA Charlotte. Statistically, Madrigal was better in AA and AAA than he was in the Carolina League. Madrigal made his MLB debut in 2020 and was hitting .305 in 2021 before getting hurt.

The third overall pick in the 2019 draft, 1st basemen Andrew Vaughn spent the last 29 games of the year in Winston Salem where he hit .253/.388/.760. Vaughn is on the White Sox in 2021 where he is adjusting to the majors and learning to play the outfield.

Lefthanded pitcher Konnor Pilkington was the White Sox third-round pick in 2018 out of Mississippi State. In 2019, Pilkington was promoted to Winston Salem on May 11th. In 19 starts in the Carolina League, he had his ups and downs and finished the year with a mediocre 4.99 ERA and 1.44 WHiP. However, in 2019 Pilkington has been much better at AA Birmingham where he has only allowed 24 hits in 42.2 innings while striking out 30 percent of batters.

Carolina Mudcats (Brewers)

The Mudcats were always an entertaining team with a number of great comeback wins.

Aaron Ashby was promoted to Carolina on June 8th, 2019. He was fantastic in his first two starts. Ashby struggled with consistency the rest of the year but the big-time skills including a slider that flashed plus were apparent,  Ashby began 2021 at AAA Nashville. After struggling with his control early, Ashby put together several great starts. To prepare for a role with the Brewers, they moved Ashby to the bullpen in June. Ashby struggled in his major league debut as an opener on June 30th failing to make it out of the first inning against the Cubs.  Ashby is the 114th prospect in my rankings.

Way back in 2013, right-hander Phil Bickford with the tenth overall pick in the MLB draft by the Blur Jays.  He did not sign and in 2015 the Giants selected him out of junior college with the 18 overall selection.  After a solid start with the Giants, Bickford was traded to the Brewers in 2016 for Will Smith.  Bickford struggled both on and off the field over the next few years.

In 2017, Bickford only pitched 17 innings in the AZL.  During the 2018season, he pitched 34.2 innings for the Mudcats with a 1.59 WHIP. In 2019, Bickford struggled to begin the year then beginning on July 9th, Bickford pitching 26 innings the rest of the year, allowing no runs, only nine hits and six walks while striking out 39.

Bickford made his MLB debut in 2020 but was waived by the Brewers on April 28, 2021.  He was claimed by the Dodgers and has been pitching very well out of the Dodgers bullpen.

Shortstop Brice Turang is likely a better real-life player than a fantasy player.  He has a good hit tool, speed and plays solid defense but has little power. Turang was 2018 first-round pick out of high school and he finished 2019 in the Carolina League as one of the youngest players.  He is still just 21 and is playing well at AA Biloxi.  Turang is the 100th ranked prospect in my rankings.

Lynchburg Hillcats (Indians)

The Indians have a ton of young prospects that were not ready for Lynchburg in 2019.

Shortstop Tyler Freeman was called up to Lynchburg right after the All-Star break as a 20-year-old.  He showed an excellent hit tool striking out less than ten percent of the time but limited power.  In 2020 there were reports of his power developing.  However, in 2021 at AA Akron he has kept on hitting but has not shown much power.  Freeman is my 74th ranked prospect.

It is easy to dismiss outfielder, Oscar Gonzalez because he hardly walks. However, Gonzalez was productive in 96 games at Lynchburg in 2019 with a 129 wRC+ before being promoted to AA Akron. At Akron in 2021 Gonzalez has been even better with a .414 wOBA and has improved his walk percentage to a career-high 5.6 percent. It was around three percent the three previous years.

It was apparent at the beginning of the 2019 season that righthander, Eli Morgan was too advanced for the Carolina League. Morgan was finally promoted to AA Akron on May 6th. With all the injuries that the Indians have on their pitching staff, Morgan is getting an opportunity in the majors now.

Outfielder Will Benson is a three outcome hitter who is built like a tight end and has a huge throwing arm and good speed. Benson had 18 homers in 62 games for Lake County in the Midwest League to begin 2019 but only hit four homers in 61 games with Lynchburg. In 2021 at AA Akron is walking over 20 percent of the time, and his ISO is .246 which is a big improvement over the .115 ISO he had a Lynchburg.  Benson is one of the best athletes in the minors.

Potomac Nationals

The Nationals lacked top prospects in 2019 at Potomac.  There was a core of decent Carolina League players such as Cole Freeman, Nick Banks, Aldrem Corredor, KJ Harrison, Nick Raquet and Tim Cate. Many of these players are older and none have done enough in 2021 to be considered a prospect.

Comings and Goings

Prospects Changing Levels

Several big names are moving up including Julio Rodriguez (4), Nolan Gorman (16), Jordan Walker (65) and Blake Walston (54).  The prospect ranking is in parenthesis.

DateOrganizationProspectFromTo
6/23/21RoyalsJackson KowarMLBAAA
6/25/21DiamondbacksBlake WalstonLow AHigh A
6/25/21MarlinsLewin DiazMLBAAA
6/26/21DiamondbacksCorbin MartinMLBAAA
6/26/21GiantsPatrick BaileyHigh ARookie
6/27/21Orioles Ryan McKennaAAAMLB
6/27/21TigersIsaac ParedesMLBAAA
6/27/21BravesKyle MullerAAAMLB
6/28/21AstrosTaylor JonesMLBAAA
6/28/21TwinsJosh WinderAAAAA
6/28/21TwinsJose MirandaAAAAA
6/28/21TwinsEdouard JulienLow AHigh A
6/29/21DiamondbacksAndy YoungAAAMLB
6/29/21MarlinsJordan HollawayAAAMLB
6/29/21MetsThomas SzapuckiAAAMLB
6/29/21White SoxGavin SheetsAAAMLB
6/29/21White SoxLuis GonzalezMLBAAA
6/29/21PhilliesSpencer HowardMLBAAA
6/29/21MarinersJulio RodriguezHigh AAA
6/29/21CardinalsJordan WalkerLow AHigh A
6/29/21CardinalsNolan GormanAAAAA

Prospects Coming Off the IL

Nick Gonzales hit a homer in his first at-bat back off of Jay Groome.

DateOrganizationProspectLevel
6-26-21OriolesTerrin VavraAA
6/26/21PiratesNick GonzalesHigh A

I have been unable to find out any details regarding Austin Martin's injury.

DateOrganizationProspectLevel
6/26/21AthleticsStevie EmanuelsHigh A
6/26/21RaysOsleivis BasabeLow A
6/25/21Blue JaysAustin MartinAA

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

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