5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers 8-15-23

by Mike Schneider
5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers 8-15-23

Welcome to the 8-15-23 edition of 5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers that are in my Prospect Rankings.

Four of the five prospects profiled in this edition of Prospect Risers were traded from their original organization. Teams are definitely "playing with fire" when they trade prospects.  The Mets trade discussed below is an example of trading a valuable future asset for a two-month rental that ended up not helping them make the playoffs.

When an organization trades a prospect, especially a very young prospect, it would make sense that their own organization knows the prospect best.  You would think that they see something that they project will prevent the prospect from becoming an impact major leaguer. However, the White Sox traded away a then 17-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. before he played in an official professional game and the Guardian traded away 18-year-old Junior Caminero after one season in the Dominican Summer League.

5 Dynasty Baseball Prospect Risers 8-15-23

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Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cubs, CF Age 21, Ranking 32

This year the Mets were major sellers at the trade deadline acquiring prospects for Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Tomy Pham, and Mark Canha. Back in 2021 the Mets were in a similar position but traded their 2020 first-round draft pick to acquire Javier Báez. The Mets ended up well out of playoff contention.

Pete Crow-Armstrong's (PCA) mother is an actress and before he was born she played the mother in the 1994 baseball movie, Little Big League.  PCA grew up in Los Angeles and was selected by the Met as the 19th overall pick out of high school.  He received a signing bonus of $3.36 million which was the slot value.

PCA only played six games in the Mets organization in 2021 before tearing his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder and missing the remainder of the season. Several months after the injury he was traded to the Cubs.

Last year PCA began the season at Single-A Myrtle Beach where he quickly showed he was too advanced for the level.  In 38 games, he had a 174 wRC+ with seven homers and a .354/.443/.557 line. The Cub promoted Crow-Armstrong to High A South Bend on May 31st where he spent the remainder of the year.  In  63 games, PCA had a 125 wRC+  with a .831 OPS.

This year in 73 games at AA Tennessee, PCA had 14 homers and  27 steals with a .397 wOBA.  He was promoted to AAA Iowa on August 1st.  He has gotten off to an excellent start with three homers and three steals in his first ten games.

Defense has always been considered PCA's greatest strength.  He is an elite defensive centerfielder.  This is a prospect who can do a bit of everything and should be the Cub's regular centerfielder for many years beginning early in 2024.  The Mets paid a heavy price for two months of Javier Báez.

Connor Phillips, Reds, RHP Age 22, Ranking 62

It seems like in every edition of 5 Dynasty Prospect Risers I  am profiling a Reds Prospect.  This time it is Connor Phillips who has as much upside as almost any pitching prospect in baseball.

Connor Phillips graduated from high school in Texas in 2019 and was originally planning to go to Louisiana State where he would not have been draft eligible until 2022.  Instead, he decided to go to McLennan Community College so that he could be draft eligible sooner.  Phillip ended up only pitching in six games and 25.2 innings in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but the Mariners saw enough to select him with the 64th overall pick of the draft.

As a 20 year old in his first pro season, Phillips flashed his enormous potential.  In his first month as a pro in May, Phillips had a  1.56 WHIP but struck out 39.7% of batters.  In his last five games at Single-A Modesto Phillips struck out 40 of 99 batters while holding hitters to a .151 batting average.  His final start of the year was for High A Everett.

On March 14, 2022 season the Mariners acquired Eugenio Suárez and Jess Winker from the Reds for a package that included a player to be named later.  Just before the season, it was announced that Phillips was the player to be named later.

In 2022 Phillips split the season between High A Dayton and AA Chattanooga making 12 starts at each level. He was very good at High A where he struck out 35.2% of batters with a batting average against of .181.  Phillips struggled at AA after getting promoted on June 28.  He walked 34 batters in just 45.2 innings.

Phillips returned to AA Chattanooga to begin this year where he made 14 starts.  Between June 7th and June 18th, Phillips made three starts where he pitched 19 innings allowing just two runs, 11 hits, and two walks (0.68 WHIP) with a strikeout minus walks rate of 39.4%.  Phillips was promoted to AAA Louisville on June 28th.

Phillips continued to pitch well at AAA initially. While he has walked 19 batters in his first 27.2 innings, he has struck out 27.6% of batters while holding hitters to a .206 batting average. With the Reds in the middle of the pennant race and having questionable pitching there is talk of calling Phillips up.  However, Phillips struggled in his last game and has already thrown 93.2 innings in 2023. His career high was 109.2 innings last year and combined with the high walk rate at AAA, it may make sense to wait until next year to bring Phillips up.

Phillips has a fastball that can reach the upper nineties with a curveball and slider that potentially can be plus pitches.  He also throws a changeup that is more of a work in progress. The command is still a question with Phillips but he is still very young and seems to get better each year.

Darell Hernaiz, Athletics, SS Age 22, Ranking 220

When Mike Elias was hired as the General Manager of the Orioles the first draft he was in charge of was 2019.  The Orioles' first two picks in that draft were Adley Rutchman and Gunnar Henderson who are already impact major leaguers.

In the fifth round of the 2019 draft, the Orioles selected Darrell Hernaiz a shortstop who was originally from Puerto Rico and played high school ball in El Paso. Hernaiz and Henderson were teammates in the Gulf Coast League in 2019 and put up similar stats.  Hernaiz had an OPS of .735 and Henderson had an OPS of .701.

After minor league resumed in 2021, Hernaiz spent the entire season at Single-A Delmarva.  He had a solid year considering he was a teenager in full-season ball for most of the year turning 20 in August. Hernaiz had a 92 wRC+ with a 17.1% strikeout rate.

The Orioles are loaded with infield prospects so Hernaiz returned to Single-A Delmarva to begin 2021.  In 32 games, Hernaiz improved his ISO from .081in 2021 to .228 and was promoted to High A Aberdeen on May 24th.  Hernaiz continued to be productive with a .305/.376/456 line in 60 games.  He finished the year playing 13 games at AA Bowie where he appeared to be overmatched.

Given the number of prospects in the Orioles organization, there did not seem to be a space for Hernaiz who would have had to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2023 season or be exposed to the Rule V draft.  The Orioles were looking to compete in 2023 and traded Hernaiz to Oakland for Cole Irvin who they expected to be in their starting rotation this year.

For Hernaiz the trade to the rebuilding As opened up plenty of opportunities for him if he could produce and 2023 has been a big year for him.  As AA Midland, Hernaiz mashed from the start of the year.  He hit over .300 each month and was promoted to AAA Las Vegas on July 14th.  At Midland, Hernaiz had a 15.6% strikeout rate and a 8.4% walk rate.

In his first few weeks at AAA, Hernaiz has a .337/.409/.515 line and has actually lowered his strikeout rate and increased his walk rate.

Hernaiz has a great chance to be a major league regular by 2024.  He has mostly played shortstop and could play second and third as well.  He is solid defensively with an above-average arm.  His fantasy value is limited because his power and speed are average but the floor is high in terms of a solid player with an opportunity to get regular playing time, especially in the next few years when the Athletics are rebuilding.

Chayce McDermott, Orioles, RHP Age 24 Ranking 282

There has never been a question of whether Chayce McDermott has major-league stuff.  He throws in the mid to upper nineties with both a slider and curveball which have flashed plus potential.

McDermott spent four years at Ball State including a redshirt season after having Tommy John surgery and the pandemic shortened 2020 season.  In 139 college innings, McDermott had a strikeout rate of 33.5% but a walk rate of 11.4%.

The Astros selected McDermott in the fourth round with the 132nd overall pick in the 2021 draft and signed him to a slightly below bonus of $375,000. McDermott did make seven appearances as a pro in 2021 where he struck out 47% of batters with a 162 batting average against and a 12.9% walk rate in 21.1 innings,

McDermott had a tougher time last year.  He began the year at High A Asheville where he struggled with consistency while posting strong strikeout numbers.  After giving up ten earned runs in 14 innings in April, McDermott had a .113 batting average against and 0.75 WHIP in May.  However, in June he gave up 21 earned runs in 20.2 innings.   In July McDermott struck out 43.% batters but had a walk rate of 17.2%.

At the trade deadline, McDermott was traded to the Orioles with Seth Johnson for Trey Mancini.  After a couple of appearances at High A Aberdeen, McDermott was promoted to AA Bowiw for the last month of the season. After a couple of rough outings, McDermott finished the year strong with .127 batting average against and a 0.96 WHIP in his last four games spanning 18.2 innings.

McDermott returned to AA Bowie to begin this year.  In 16 games he gave four earned runs twice and three earned runs twice.  In the remaining 12 games he gave up two or less runs. His strikeout rate was 30.7% but the walk rate continues to be an issue at 15.3%. Still, McDermott was promoted to AAA Norfolk on July 14th.

In five games at Norfolk, McDermott has been especially difficult to hit with a .113 batting average against.  In his second game for Norfolk, McDermott walked six batters in five innings. In three games since then he has only walked four batters in 16 innings.

There is no doubt that McDermott can be a quality major-league reliever. The jury is still out regarding whether McDermott has the command to be a major league starter but he has shown improvement recently.

Trey Lipscomb, Nationals, 3B, Age 23, Ranking 409

When evaluating prospects, one of the more challenging scenarios is prospects that go on a nice run.  Is it a real improvement or just a hot streak?

Trey Lipscomb is local to me.  He was born in Frederick, Maryland, and went to Urbana High School. Lipscomb was one of the best high school players in Maryland in 2018.

In his first three years at the University of Tennessee, Lipscomb only had 83 plate appearances. However, Lipscomb had a huge Senior year in 2022 with 22 homers and 84 RBIs in 66 games. The Nationals selected Lipscomb in the third round and he signed for slot value with a $758,900 bonus.

Last year Lipscomb played in 23 games for Single-A Fredericksburg where he hit .299 but only had one homer and only walked four times in 101 plate appearances.  Lipscomb had a 9% walk rate as a Senior in college.

This year Lipscomb began the year at High A Wilmington where he had a 91 wRC+ and .698 OPS in 49 games with a 19.8% strikeout rate and a 7.1% walk rate. Despite the mediocre statistics, Lipscomb was promoted to AA Harrisburg on June 9th.

At AA, Lipscomb has been significantly more impressive.  He got off to a solid start with five homers and a .289/.315/.428 line in his first 40 games thru the end of July. In August Lipscomb has been white hot. In the first 12 games of August, Lipscomb is 24 for 50 with two homers, five doubles, and a triple.

Lipscomb also has only walked six times in 208 plate appearances (2.9%) at AA which is a big red flag.  He is solid defensively at third.

It is an interesting profile. One prodigious year in the SEC Conference, the best college baseball conference, and a lot more success in AA than in High A. Of the 83 players selected ahead of Lipscomb in the 2022 draft only Zach Neto who has spent most of the year in the majors and the top prospect in baseball, Jackson Holliday (only 19 games at AA) have had more success in the upper minors than Lipscomb.

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