2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 8-26-21

by Mike Schneider
2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 8

Welcome to the 8-26-21 edition of our 2021 MiLB Prospect Notes.

The player movement the last few weeks have been crazy. We are entering the time of year where a prospect that has had a good year at a level is being promoted to play the last few weeks of the season at the next level so that they get an idea of what to expect in 2022.

For example, Nick Yorke has had a very nice year at Low A Salem, especially after May.  He was just promoted to High A Greenville. I expect that Yorke will begin 2022 at Greenville and that if he has success he will spend a good amount of  2022 at AA Portland.

2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 8-26-21

Revisiting Fast Starts

Back in the early season, I highlighted players that were impressive at the beginning of the season. This week we will look at hitters and next week we will look at pitchers.

2021 MiLB Prospect Notes 5-27-21

Great Year

These players started fast and have kept it up all year.

Jose Barrero (Reds SS)

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He changed his name, but has hit all year and is 19th on my prospect rankings.  The question is how soon Barrero will get an opportunity to be the Reds everyday shortstop.

Riley Greene (Tigers CF)

AA seemed like an aggressive assignment for the 20-year-old Greene but he has more than handled it and is now in AAA Toledo.  Greene's floor is a solid major league regular with much higher potential.  Greene should debut in the majors in 2022 the question will be how early in the year it will happen.

Jose Miranda (Twins INF)

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Miranda was off the prospect radar after a mediocre year as a 21-year-old in High A Fort Myers (98 wRC+).  He has hit all year in 2021 and has been even better in AAA than he was in AA.  The question is where Miranda fits defensively.

Jhonkensy Noel (Indians 1B/3B)

Injuries have been the only thing to slow Noel down in 2021.  Recently promoted to High A, the question is if the soon-to-be Guardians will add Noel to their 40 man roster and if not, will another team select him in the Rule V draft.

MJ Melendez (C) and Nick Pratto (1B) (Royals)

The Royals' first two picks in the 2017 draft, both were coming up a difficult year in 2019 at High A Wilmington where contact issues were exposed.  They spent 2020 working to fix their problem and both have been huge success stories in 2021.  Pratto should get a chance in 2022.  It will be interesting to see how the Royals manage Melendez with Salvador Perez seemingly getting better with age.

Nice Start Not Great Year

These prospects have struggled after starting fast.

Will Wilson (Giants SS)

At High A, Wilson was much better in May than he was in June.  However, he was promoted to AA on July 6th and has a 64 wRC+ in 36 games while striking out 35 percent of the time.

Gunnar Henderson (Orioles SS/3B)

Sometimes a prospect gets promoted to a new level and does not miss a beat and other times they look like a different player.  Henderson looked too advanced for Low A (.417 wOBA) and was promoted to High A Aberdeen on June 22nd.  It has been more of a struggle than expected but the 20-year-old is still a good-looking prospect long term.

Taylor Trammell (Mariners OF)

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It has been an interesting year for Trammell who is on his third organization.  Trammell won the everyday role in the Mariners outfield at the beginning of the year despite having only 32 games of experience in AA.

He was sent down to AAA when Jarred Kelenic was called up on May 13th and went on an incredible streak earning another promotion to the majors on June 1st.

Trammell struggled and was sent down again on July 11th.  Since being sent back down, Trammell has just a 64 wRC+ in 33 games.

Owen Miller (Indians INF)

Miler got off to a great start at AAA with a .467 on-base percentage in 16 games.  With a nice hit tool, Miller may not have huge upside, but he appeared to be a safe bet to be a steady contributor when he was called up to the majors on May 23rd. However, Miller has a .465 OPS in 115 at-bats with the Indians and has been unspectacular in the 32 games he has played in the minors since being called up.

Kyren Paris (Angels SS)

This is more a matter of missing a good chunk of the season than poor performance.  Paris was injured on May 22nd and was out until July 29th when he returned for rehab games in the Complex League before rejoining Low A Inland Empire on August 7th. Surprisingly Paris was just promoted to High A Tri-City after just 13 games back.

2021 Olympic Baseball team

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Baseball was added to the summer Olympics for the first time since 2008.  The USA team was an off mixture of older players whose careers are winding down such as Todd Frazier and Edwin Jackson and a few top prospects. Baseball will not be returning to the Olympics in 2024.

I can certainly understand the desire to play for your country and potentially win a gold medal.  However, baseball is not a traditional Olympic sport and it was a major interruption to the normal minor league season.

I believe I put more emphasis than others on the importance of prospects getting a full season in 2021 after the 2020 season was canceled especially for pitchers.  Instead of playing six games a week, the Olympic schedule was much less and the competition against certain teams was weak.

Triston Casas missed games from May 23rd until June 8th for the qualifying tournament and between July 15 and August 11th for the Olympics. He has had an under-the-radar disappointing year on the field at AA. Since June 8th in 41 games, his ISO is .103. For a player whose value is mostly as a power hitter that is shockingly low.

Simeon Woods Richardson got off to a great start this year and was strong his first few games back from the qualifying tournament.  However, he struggled in four games beginning on June 26th.  Woods Richardson was traded at the deadline to the Twins and has not pitched since July 15th.

On the other hand, The Olympics may help to limit Shane Baz' innings so that he could be a factor in the Rays playoff pitching staff, likely in the bullpen.

Three New Prospects To Know

This week I am going to look at three prospects from the eighth and ninth rounds of the 2019 draft that have emerged recently as promising prospects. On the one hand, these players had to wait until 2021 for their first full pro season.  On the other hand, in 2020 these players would not have been drafted and the maximum bonus to sign as an undrafted free agent was $20,000.

Zak Kent (Rangers RHP)

Zak Kent attended Virginia Military Institute and played for three years in the Southern Conference.  He made significant strides each year after a difficult freshman year.

The Rangers selected Kent with the 265th pick of the 2019 draft and signed him for $140k which was slightly below the $155,800 slot. In 2019 he made several short appearances mostly in the Northwest League where he was hit hard.

In 2021 Kent was assigned to High A Hickory and did not give up a run for his first five games totaling 18.2 innings.  This was highlighted by a game on May 21st when he struck out ten of fifteen batters.

However, Kent was pounded for seven runs and did not make it out of the second inning in his first start on June 11th.  Kent rebounded and had several impressive games including a 13 strikeout game on August 5th which earn him a promotion to AA Frisco.

Kent has made two starts for Frisco where he has allowed one run in 11 innings with 14 strikeouts giving up eight hits and four walks.

Kent has added velocity as a pro and is now in the mid-nineties with a slider that is a potential plus pitch.

Ryan Ward (Dodgers LF)

Ryan Ward is from the northeast so he did not have the opportunity to play year-round growing up.  Ward attended Bryant University in Rhode Island where he played with James Karinchak in 2017.  After missing most of his freshman season due to an injury, Ward became the first player in school history to hit .400 in 2018.

The Dodgers selected Ward in the eighth round with the 251st overall pick.  Ward played 40 games for Ogden in the Pioneer League in 2019 where he was league average (101 w RC+).

In 2021 Ward has spent the entire year at High A Great Lakes.  Only his teammate, Andy Pages (25) has more home runs in High A than Ward (24).  He has been especially hot in August where he is hitting ..368/.455/.842 with 10 homers in 19 games.

Ward has maintained respectable strikeout (20.8 percent) and walk (10.9 percent) ratios. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed and in a limited sample his stats against lefties are not great (.704 OPS).

Ward has played second base in college but appears to be limited to leftfield now so there is a lot of pressure on his bat. He will likely be in AA in 2022 and that will be an important year for him.

DJ Herz (Cubs LHP)

The Cubs selected Herz with the pick after Ward.  He was a high school pitcher from North Carolina who added velocity as a senior. The Cubs signed him to an overslot $500,000 bonus.

Herz pitched 10.1 innings in the Arizona Summer League in 2019 and was reportedly impressive in 2020 in the Cubs' Instructional League.

In 2021 Herz has spent the entire year at Low A Myrtle Beach as a 20-year-old.  He has shown huge swing and miss ability.  Herz is striking out 41.7 percent of batters.

The majority of Herz' appearances have been three to four innings.  He has pitched five innings twice.

It is too early to determine if Herz will be a starter or a reliever.  He currently relies primarily on his fastball and slider.  If Herz can improve his command and develop and reliable third or fourth pitch he has the potential to be a big-time prospect in a couple of years.

Comings and Goings

Prospects Changing Levels

As discussed above it was a very busy week including the MLB of my 17th ranked prospect, Edward Cabrera.

8/18/21AstrosEnmanuel ValdezHigh AAA
8/18/21AstrosAngel MacuareHigh AAA
8/18/21AngelsRobinson PinaHigh AAA
8/18/21MarlinsAntonio VelezHigh AAA
8/18/21RedsJose TorresComplexLow A
8/19/21CubsErich UelmenAAAAA
8/19/21PadresChase WalterLow AHigh A
8/20/21RangersNick SolakAAAMLB
8/20/21RangersJosh JungAAAAA
8/20/21IndiansWill Benson AAAAA
8/20/21White SoxRomy GonzalezAAAAA
8/20/21CubsBrendon LittleAAAAA
8/20/21DodgersClayton BeeterHigh AAA
8/20/21Dodgers Melvin JimenezHigh AAA
8/20/21RaysChristopher GauHigh AAA
8/20/21PadresKevin KoppsComplexHigh A
8/21/21CubsKeegan ThompsonAAAMLB
8/21/21PhilliesVictor LopezLow AHigh A
8/22/21PhilliesAlec BohmMLBAAA
8/22/21Blue JaysOtto LopezMLBAAA
8/23/21PiratesHoy Jun ParkMLBAAA
8/23/21Red SoxJonathan ArauzMLBAAA
8/23/21PiratesRodolfo CastroMLBAA
8/23/21OriolesJahmai JonesAAAMLB
8/23/21PiratesMichael ChavisAAAMLB
8/23/21TigersGarrett HillHigh AAA
8/23/21TwinsAaron SabatoLow AHigh A
8/23/21TigersEliezer AlfonzoLow AHigh A
8/23/21TigersColt KeithLow AHigh A
8/23/21PadresJackson WolfComplexLow A
8/23/21CubsOwen CassieComplexLow A
8/23/21BrewersTyler BlackComplexLow A
8/23/21CubsChristian FranklinComplexLow A
8/23/21White SoxSean BurkeComplexLow A
8/24/21YankeesRandy VasquezHigh AAA
8/24/21IndiansGeorge ValeraHigh AAA
8/24/21Red SoxNick YorkeLow AHigh A
8/24/21CubsYohendrick PinangoLow AHigh A
8/24/21NationalsSeth RomeroAAAAA
8/24/21NationalsCada CavalliAAAAA
8/24/21BrewersFreddy ZamoraLow AHigh A
8/24/21BrewersAshton McGeeLow AHigh A
8/24/21AthleticsLawrence ButlerLow AHigh A
8/24/21NationalsArmond UpshawHigh AAA
8/24/21RoyalsEmilio MarquezLow AHigh A
8/24/21Red SoxJarren DuranMLBAAA
8/24/21White SoxHarvin MendozaLow AHigh A
8/24/21IndiansMilan TolentinoComplexLow A
8/24/21IndiansJorge BurgosComplexLow A
8/24/21YankeesBeck WayLow AHigh A
8/24/21MarinersRay KerrAAAAA
8/25/21AngelsKyren ParisLow AHigh A
8/25/21MarlinsEdward CabreraAAAMLB

Prospects Who Went On the IL

Prospects that went on the injured list this week include Henry Davis, Matt Canterino, Brendan McKay, Richard Palacios, Ryan Weiss, Cody Thomas, Anderson Tejeda, Korey Lee, Austin Shenton, Erik Sabrowski, and Adam Hall.

Prospects Coming Off the IL

Prospects that came off the injured list include Oneil Cruz, Jeren Kendall, Patrick Bailey, Stuart Fairchild, and Tristen Lutz.

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