Over the next few weeks, we’ll be checking in on how the top five prospects from each team are doing so far in 2021. Some prospects may still be looking to take the field for the first time while others may be on the verge of losing their prospect status.
With this article, we’ll take a look at the top prospects from each team in the American League East.
Stats are of May 16.
1. Adley Rutschman, C, Double-A – Rutschman has shown off some of his power to start the 2021 season, belting three homers and posting a .282 ISO. Even more encouraging is the plate approach – the star backstop is walking 24.1 % of the time. Baltimore was not expected to compete in the AL East this season and already finds themselves seven games back of the division-leading Red Sox. Rutschman could force his way up to the bigs if he continues to rake in the minors but it’s more likely we see him as a September cup of coffee or in early 2022.
2. Grayson Rodriguez, P, High-A – The strikeout ability has been on full display for Rodriguez. Through 12.1 innings across three starts, the 21-year-old has a 45.1% strikeout rate paired with a 7.8% walk rate. Rodriguez’s best outing came most recently on May 15 when he struck out 11 in five innings while allowing just one run on three hits. He’s proving early on to be too talented for his level.
3. Heston Kjerstad, OF, N/A – The 2020 second overall pick is still building up reps and strength at Baltimore’s alternate site after he missed several months of action due to myocarditis. The good news is that reports have indicated that the 22-year-old is healthy and progressing. Expect to see him in competitive action sometime this summer.
4. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/OF, MLB – Mountcastle has now exceeded his prospect eligibility, but 2021 has been a struggle. He’s striking out more than 30% of the time, leading to a disappointing .218/.240/.338 triple-slash. Mountcastle burst onto the scene with a 141 wRC+ in 35 MLB games in 2020, so there is a history, albeit a small one, of him performing in the majors. The Orioles will likely continue to put him in a near-everyday role to give him an opportunity to turn things around.
5. DL Hall, P, Double-A – Like Rodriguez above, Hall has been putting up huge strikeout numbers to begin 2021. Through 12 innings, the 22-year-old has posted a 44.2% strikeout rate. The walk rate is still in the double digits, so the reliever risk remains, but there is no denying that Hall has some of the best strikeout stuff in the minors.
1. Tristan Casas, 1B/3B, Double-A – Casas has been on fire to kick off the 2021 campaign, triple-slashing .341/.383/.568 with three home runs in 11 games. If you want to nitpick, the 25.5% strikeout rate is a bit high for someone with a 6.4% walk rate but this is a small sample and he’s tearing the cover off the ball. There was some hope that Casas could spend some time playing third base this season but so far he’s logged all of his playing time at first. If he keeps up this performance he will make the jump to Triple-A sometime this summer.
2. Jeter Downs, 2B, Triple-A – Downs has had a sluggish start at the upper-most level of the minors. The infielder is striking out more than 40% of the time and hitting just .220. This is an abnormally high strikeout number for Downs, whose previous career-high was 20.3% at High-A in 2019, so it’s likely to come back down to earth as the sample gets bigger. Downs has still swiped five bags despite the off performance at the plate.
3. Tanner Houck, P, MLB/Triple-A – Houck has made two spot starts and a relief appearance for Boston, posting a 4.35 ERA across 10.1 innings. The 24-year-old has also posted a 26.7% strikeout rate while walking just one batter. Houck has also tossed three innings at Triple-A, allowing three runs while striking out four. He seems to be the most likely candidate to slot into the big-league rotation if an injury occurs.
4. Jarren Duran, OF, Triple-A – Duran picked up a lot of hype with some impressive performances this spring. He’s remained hot to begin the Triple-A season, hitting four home runs and stealing three bags in 12 games. Reports have noted a swing change for Duran that has helped him tap into the power. He’s looking like a legitimate 20/20 threat with some potential strikeout concerns down the road against big-league pitching.
5. Noah Song, P, N/A – Song won’t see any game action in 2021 due to his commitment to the Navy. He was a first-round talent taken in the fourth round of the 2019 draft due to his military commitment. It’s unclear when we will see Song on the diamond.
1. Jasson Dominguez, OF, N/A – We are all still waiting for Dominguez’s professional debut. The Yankees kept the 18-year-old in extended spring training and it’s unclear when he will be assigned to a minor league affiliate. The upside is still amongst the highest in all of minor league baseball.
2. Deivi García, P, MLB/Triple-A – Like Houck for Boston, García has already been called upon by the Yankees to make a spot start. The 21-year-old allowed two runs in four innings while striking out four. At Triple-A, the right-hander has posted a 3.38 ERA with a 35.2% strikeout rate in 13.1 innings but has also had some problems limiting walks. He’ll make more appearances for New York later this year, and it could be as a starter or in a relief capacity.
3. Clarke Schmidt, P, N/A – Schmidt has been progressing from elbow discomfort over the last few months. The Yankees had previously placed him on the 60-day IL, but he seems to be trending in the right direction. The right-hander features a plus fastball and a plus curveball. Given his injury history (he previously had Tommy John), he could end up as a reliever.
4. Luis Gil, P, Double-A – Gil is has been getting the best of hitters in 2021, recording a 40.4% strikeout rate and a 2.53 ERA in 10.1 innings. He ultimately might end up as a reliever, though a dominant one, but the Yankees are stretching him out as a starter for the time being. His best performance came on May 15 when he struck out eight in four scoreless innings.
5. Estevan Florial, OF, Triple-A/Double-A – Florial received a promotion after just nine games in Double-A. In those nine games, Florial had four home runs and a wRC+ of 143. The move up is still somewhat surprising given Florial’s strikeout concerns, but it appears that the Yankees think very highly of the 23-year-old.
1. Wander Franco, SS, Triple-A – Not much to say here. The best prospect in baseball is performing like the best prospect in baseball. Through his first 11 games at Triple-A, Franco is triple-slashing .348/.404/.652 with three home runs and a steal. It’s just a matter of when for Franco.
2. Randy Arozarena, OF, MLB – Arozarena’s prospect status has now been expired. The outfielder has recorded a 118 wRC+ to go with four home runs and four steals to start 2021, though he’s experiencing a sluggish May. He’s not likely to repeat his out-of-this-world performance last fall, but Arozarena continues to establish himself as an above-average bat with power and speed.
3. Vidal Bruján, 2B, Triple-A – Bruján has been just as good, if not better, than Wander Franco. Through 12 games, the talented second baseman has shown off new-found power, belting five home runs and recording a .340 ISO. This is massive for Bruján’s fantasy upside. Not so long ago he was seen as a burner with a good hit tool. Now? We may have a complete package. The second baseman is triple-slashing .319/.429/.660 and has walked as many times as he’s struck out. Like Franco, it’s just a matter of when.
4. Luis Patiño, P, MLB – The 21-year-old has been very effective out of the gate for the Rays. Through 11.2 innings across two starts and two relief appearances, Patiño has a 1.54 ERA and 25.6% K-BB rate. Most encouragingly, the Rays let him toss 65 pitches in his last outing. The workload is the main question mark for Patiño in 2021, but he appears to be getting a longer and longer leash with each outing. Expect him to work as a starter/opener/reliever for the time being.
5. Shane Baz, P, Double-A – Baz has been dominant to start the season. Through 12.1 innings at Double-A, Baz has a 34% KK-B rate and has allowed just three earned runs. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the 22-year-old make the jump to Triple-A sometime this summer.
1. Nate Pearson, P, MLB/Triple-A – The Jays gave Pearson a shot at the rotation but after one rough outing he was optioned. He’s since had a 3.2 inning performance at Triple-A where he allowed one run and struck out eight. The bad news is that he is expected to miss his next start (and maybe more) with shoulder discomfort. When healthy, Pearson has multiple electric offerings but he now has a track record of injury concerns.
2. Austin Martin, SS/OF, Double-A – It’s been a solid but not spectacular first two weeks in the minors for the 2020 fifth overall pick. Through 10 games, Martin is triple-slashing .222/.364/.333. The 27% strikeout rate is a bit higher than would have been expected but, again, this is a very small sample. Expect him to catch fire the more he becomes adjusted to professional pitching. Martin’s MLB debut should be sometime in 2022.
3. Jordan Groshans, SS/3B, Double-A – Like Martin, Groshans has been fine in Double-A to start the season but an uptick in production should come. The walk rate has been outstanding – Groshans has been taking his walks more than 15% of the time – but his slugging is below .300. Groshans should be an above-average power bat so it is just a matter of time before we see some extra-base hits.
4. Simeon Woods-Richardson, P, Double-A – It feels like SWR has been a name in prospect circles forever but he’s still just 20 years old. The righty has made three starts at Double-A and sports a 1.29 ERA with 23 strikeouts in just 14 innings. The nearly 12% walk rate is much higher than we’ve come to expect from him and I’d expect that to trickle down over his next few starts. His stock is on an upward trajectory.
5. Alek Manoah, P, Triple-A – Speaking of stocks that are going up, here’s Manoah. The tall righty made a massive jump to Triple-A this season and has simply overmatched hitters. Through his first two starts, Manoah has thrown 12 shutout innings and struck out 17. It’s tough to be much better than that. Toronto’s starters’ fWAR is the second-worst in baseball so it is probably just a matter of time before Manoah gets a shot, especially with Pearson recovering from an injury.
Various Photos from Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare