Welcome to the 7-30-23 edition of 5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers that are in my Prospect Rankings. It seems like the minor league year just started but there are less than two months left in the regular season
In this edition, I profile a wide range of prospects from a player who was considered elite even before he was drafted to a prospect who I was not familiar with at the beginning of the year. There are a couple of prospects here that were perhaps overlooked earlier in the year but have shown that they chance to be impact players.
One characteristic that the hitters I profile in this edition have is excellent patience.
5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers 7-30-23
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Jordan Lawlar Diamondbacks SS, Age 21 Ranking 2
For prospects sometimes putting up eye-popping statistics is not as important as improving as the season progresses.
Jordan Lawlar was one of the top players in the 2021 class. He played high school ball in Dallas. The Diamondbacks were thrilled that he was still available and picked Lawlar with the sixth overall selection. Lawlar received a signing bonus of 6.7 million which was greater than the slot amount of 5.74 million.
Unfortunately, Lawlar tore his labrum in his second pro game on August 23, 2021, and missed the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Last year Lawlar had a terrific year. He began the year at Single-A Visalia where he dominated. In 44 games. Lawlar hit .351 with nine homers and 24 stolen bases in 28 attempts. On July 4th Lawlar was promoted to High A Hillsboro. In 30 games at High A, Lawlar had a 140 wRC+ and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts. The Diamondbacks promoted Lawlar to AA Amarillo for the last few weeks of the season.
Lawlar found AA more challenging. In 20 games he had a .299 on-base percentage. After the regular minor league season, Lawlar was one of the younger players in the Arizona Fall League. He fractured his scapula after being hit by a pitch on October 21st and missed the remainder of the Arizona Fall League. However, Lawlar was impressive in the 11 games he did play with a .997 OPS and 14 strikeouts versus 11 walks.
This year, Lawlar has spent the entire at AA Amarillo. He got off to a slow start hitting .162 with a 31.7% strikeout rate in his first 32 games. Since then Lawlar is hitting .302/.397/.535 with a 16.8% strikeout rate and eight homers. On the year Lawlar has stolen 28 bases in 32 attempts. He is on pace to hit about 20 homers and steal about 40 bases.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 21, 2023
Lawlar is a very well-rounded player that will fit in well with the Diamondbacks' young core of position players. He has the skill to be a solid defensive shortstop but his defense is probably a bit behind his hitting tools. Expect to see Lawlar in the majors next year.
Mason Black Giants RHP, Age 23 Ranking 183
There are not been many major leaguers from Lehigh University. Levi Stoudt is a pitcher with the Reds who went to Lehigh who has been shuffling between the majors and AAA this year.
The Giants selected Mason Black with their third-round pick in 2021 making him the highest pick in school history. However, it was Black's performances in summer leagues rather than in college that raised his draft value. In 33 innings as a freshman, Black had a 1.36 WHIP and 18.8% strikeout rate. However, in the Cape Cop League in 36.2 innings, Black had a 1.06 WHIP and 26.3 strikeout rate.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Black pitched 22 innings for Lehigh and 28 innings in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League where he had a 0.71 WHIP and struck out 42 of 99 batters faced.
As a Junior, Black struck out 30% of batters but had a walk rate of 9.8%. After being drafted by the Giants, Black did not make his pro debut until last year.
At Single-A San Jose in 2022, Black appeared too advanced for the level. In eight starts he had a 26.7% strikeout minus walks rate with a 61.3% ground ball rate. He was promoted to High A Eugene on May 24th where he stayed for the remainder of the year. Black had some ups and done but finished strong. In his last three starts, Black held batters to a .159 batting average against with a 25.4 strikeout minus walk rate.
Black began this year at AA Richmond. In his first ten starts, Black had a 1.34 WHIP and a .241 batting average against. In his next six starts, Black allowed one earned run in 26.1 innings with a .124 batting average against, a 0.65 WHIP, and a strikeout minus walk rate of 33%. Black was promoted to AAA Sacramento on July 14th.
— Josh Norris ? (@jnorris427) June 10, 2023
Black's success continued in his AAA debut where he struck out eight in five scoreless innings. Black has a quality fastball and slider. His development of a third pitch will be a huge factor in his success at the major league level.
Drew Thorpe Yankees, RHP, Age 22, Ranking 198
Back in the 80s and early 90s, Bruce Hurst was a solid lefthander with the Red Sox and Padres. Hurst is the only major leaguer from St George, Utah. However, the Yankees have a righthander from St George who is hoping to follow in Hurst's footsteps.
Drew Thorpe attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He made four starts as a freshman in 2020 before the season was canceled. In 2021, Thorpe was the Friday starter and had a nice season with a 3.79 ERA and a 28% strikeout rate. Last year, as a Junior, Thorpe cut down his walk rate from 10.2% to 6.3% and only allowed 65 hits in 104.2 innings.
The Yankees selected Thorpe in the second round with the 61st overall pick in the 20222 MLB draft. He signed for a slot bonus of 1.19 million. However, early this year Thorpe was overshadowed by the Yankees sixth-round draft pick last year, Chase Hampton who has emerged as a top prospect.
At High A Hudson Valley, Thorpe got off to a decent start. Through June 4th, Thorpe had a 1/22 WHIP with a .230 batting average against with a 28.5% strikeout rate and a 9.7 walk rate. However, since then Thorpe has taken it to another level. In his nexte seven games, Thorpe had a .160 batting average against with a 0.78 WHIP. During this stretch, Thorpe's strikeout rate was 37.6% and his walk rate is down to 6.4%
The @HVRenegades have a new single-game strikeout king ?
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 23, 2023
Hampton was promoted to AA Somerset on June 15th and has been decently but has not dominated like he was at High A. Thorpe appears more than ready to join Hampton at AA.
Thorpse has a sinking fastball that he throws in the low nineties that is pretty average. However, it is quality changeup and slider as well as his command that are his strengths.
Tyler Black Brewers 2B, Age 22 Ranking 219
Based on the Brewers' recent draft patterns, there are two types of backgrounds that they appear seem to think are underrated in the MLB draft. The Brewers focus on JUCO pitchers and skilled infielders that are unlikely to stick at shortstop more than other teams.
In 2021 the Brewers selected Tyler Black with the 33rd overall pick out of Wright State. Black primarily played second base inc college. He had a strong freshman year in 2019 when he was the Horizon League Freshman of the Year with a 470 on base percentage. In 2020 he was limited to 13 games due to the pandemic. In 2021 Black was outstanding with a 1.179 OPS, 13 homers and 11 steals in 12 attempts 48 games.
Black signed for 2.2 million which was slot value. After signing, Black got his feet wet with three games in the ACL and 23 games at Single-A Carolina where had a .101 wRC+.
Last year Black spent the year at High A Wisconsin where he did not play after July 10th due to a fractured scapula. In 64 games he walked 45 times and struck out 44 times. Black hit four homers and stole 13 bases in 19 attempts. He did return for the Arizona Fall League where he had a .790 in 17 games before fracturing his thumb.
Finally healthy this year, Black has put up some big numbers at AA Biloxi. In college, Black stole 19 bases in 113 games (0.17 a game). Prior to this year, Black stole 18 bases and hit five homers in 90 pro games (0.2 steals a game). In 80 games in 2023, Black has stolen 47 bases in 55 attempts (0 .59 a game) and hit 14 homers.
Last year Black played primarily second base and centerfield. With Matt McLain, Edouard Julien, and Noelvi Marte as teammates in the Arizona Fall League, Black played the outfield. This year Black has been exclusively at third base. He has the makings of a super-utility type.
Tyler Black continues to do it all for Double-A Biloxi!
Among Double-A hitters, the MLB Top-100 Prospect ranks:
— Brewers Player Development (@BrewersPD) July 20, 2023
Black's strength has always been his ability to get on base. He has always had walk rates over 15%. The combination of patience and speed makes him an ideal leadoff hitter.
Blake Dunn Reds OF, Age 24, Ranking 374
This season has been a good year for a lot of the Reds prospects from position players like Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and Christian Encarnacion-Strand at the upper levels to Brandon Williamson and Connor Phillips on the mound and Carlos Jorge and Hector Rodriguez at the lower levels. One Reds prospect who has had a huge year was an unknown at the start of the year.
When looking into Blake Dunn's background something that stands out is that between 2020 and 2022 he just did not play in a lot of college or pro games.
Dunn is from Michigan and went to college at Western Michigan University. In 2019 he had a nice Sophomore year hitting .374/.467/.521 with 30 steals in 49 games. Dunn's 2020 college season was limited to just 15 games due to the COVID shutdown. He actually played 63 games in the summer of 2020 in the Northwoods League where he has a 1.038 OPS.
Dunn returned to Western Michigan for his senior year but broke his hamate bone and was limited to 27 games. The Reds drafted Dunn in the 15th round and he received a $125,000 signing bonus. In 2021 Dunn played in 11 games as a pro before breaking his nose and missing the last part of the season.
Last season was another injury-riddled year for Dunn who was limited to 37 games. When he did play he had a 179 wRC+ in 33 games at Single-A Daytona Beach with a .468 on-base percentage and 20 steals in 21 attempts.
This year Dunn is finally healthy and he began the year red hot. At High A Dayton Dunn had a .386/.538/702 line with five homers and 11 steals in 12 attempts in April. He cooled down in May but was promoted to AA Chattanooga on June 6th.
At AA, Dunn got off to a solid start with a .313 batting average in his first 19 games and he has taken it to another level since then. Since June 30th, Dunn is 36 for 84 (.429 average) with 15 walks (.509 OBP) with 17 steals in 18 attempts, four homers, six doubles, and two triples.
BLAKE DUNN 3-RUN BLAST??? pic.twitter.com/CzqucqA4mr
— Chattanooga Lookouts (@ChattLookouts) July 30, 2023
By all accounts, Dunn is an outstanding defensive outfielder that can play all three positions. Perhaps Dunn will turn out to a lead-off-hitting regular but I think a more realistic projection is that Dunn is a nice fourth outfielder on a talented young Reds team.
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