Welcome to a roll-up-your-sleeves weekly video review of prospect pitchers. These aren’t the “best outings” of the week per se, but rather an attempt to keep abreast of prospects’ development, getting a leg up on our dynasty opponents. There was an offseason rank after a massive video review (link to offseason review series and rank list), but ranks aren’t our main focus. Watching, reporting, keeping tabs on investments, and catching new names.
(Note: If you are on your phone, turn it horizontal to view the entirety of the game line tables.)
A strikeout extravaganza across full-season ball
Gavin Stone, Double-A Tulsa (LAD)
|In his fourth double-A start Stone showed an even more impressive changeup than our last viewing, turning the helium tanks on full blast.|
Top 10 ALERT! Stone could have easily racked up two or three more strikeouts, as a few blatant bad calls and a checked swing that wasn’t ended up balls in play later. This was that dominant, and against the second-highest scoring team in the Texas League. We reviewed Stone a few weeks ago as he got his double-A feet wet, and now through four starts, he’s allowed one run in 22 innings, striking out 37, and walking three. Again, the arsenal is a lively 94/95 mph fastball, sharp slider, and a changeup on a trajectory toward one of the best pitches in all the minors. Last viewing, we saw the lively changeup break a bat while also tending to sail off non-competitively. This outing, execution of it was better, with only a few getting up in the zone more than desired, one of which led to a line-drive single. The other three hits came on what were actually well-located pitches. Tip your cap. (As odd it may be, NW Arkansas impressed in their ability to battle Stone, but they were fighting a war they couldn’t win.) The slider had moments of getting away this time, but when they did, they landed harmlessly outside the zone away from righties.
If you’re a hitter looking for a good fastball to hit, Stone isn’t your guy these days. The fastball doesn’t hit middle/middle. The mix is probably close to 33/33/33, with all three pitches living on the edges. Stone’s 70% strike rate on the day, again, should have been higher with more accurate umpiring, but the real impressive part was a high percentage of those strikes weren’t easy pitches to hit. Here are the 13 strikeout pitches:
Helium tanks have been let loose. We pondered if Stone was the Dodgers’ top starting pitching prospect for dynasty, and I’m sold he is by a decent margin. It’s fair to wonder how good the stuff would play against major leaguers, and if executed like this, I’m definitely betting it would. Is Stone one of the freaks that can maintain outlier execution with this good of stuff? There’s room to tighten up, but days like today are about as good as you’ll see in regards to the two ends of the pitching spectrum coming together in the minor leagues.
Beginning to line guys up for a rank drop over the MiLB All-Star break and Stone keeps passing guys. Exactly how much value I want to put on him is yet to be determined, but what isn’t, is if you need to grab a free share hanging around or try and swing a deal now…yes…yes you do.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Stone came down to earth, giving up four runs in four innings on seven hits, but nothing said above was retracted.
Shane Drohan, High-A Greenville (Bos)
|The 2020 fifth-rounder out of Florida St. tied the MiLB season-high for strikeouts in an outing, sparking dynasty curiosity|
Drohan has been one of the few pitching bright spots (71 K in 53.2 IP and a 1.23 WHIP) for a Greenville team second in runs scored and last in wins. In what was the best pitching dual reviewed this year, Drohan struck out a career-high 14 but surrendered two home runs dooming another Greenville day. Neither team had a hit until this in the fifth inning:
The baseball gods can be cruel, as this was a likable curveball sent over the green wall. Drohan’s attack is primarily fastball/changeup, and he had just begun offering up curveballs, a few of which produced results. It was the first time Gonzalez had seen one, and the idea of offering two in a row was clever, so he throws an even better one the second time, and bam.
The next inning, after committing an error on a swinging bunt and allowing just the second hit of the (entire) game, he went to a well too many times (back-to-back changeups were a thing) to a scorching hot hitter giving up this three-run shot:
So that was the unfortunate part. Here are the 14 strikeout pitches in two gifs:
Reports claim Drohan’s fastball is a low-90s sinker, but, at least per the broadcast, it was touching 95 and a few dipped to 91. Asheville hitters were whiffing on the fastball all day, even seemingly hittable ones in the zone, missing both over and under, leading to wonder if Drohan’s throwing a sinker and a four-seam. Regardless, it and the changeup were dominating. Spotting plus secondaries against a questionable A-ball lineup can produce big stat lines, so we’ll need to see how the 23-year-old, former ACC pitcher’s attack plays a level up before getting too excited. A lefty who doesn’t spin a breaking ball well doesn’t excite much either, but the curveball flashed some promise and appears to be an emphasis of improvement. Drohan isn’t the biggest frame in the world either, and if there aren’t two fastballs going on, he was losing velocity. Great outing, and a guy to watch for if the breaker makes gains, but holding off on any serious dynasty interest until then.
Chayce McDermott, High-A Asheville (Hou)
|Hard to think you can be more impressive than your opposition’s 14 strikeouts, but that’s exactly what the 2021 fourth-round pick out of Ball St. did.|
McDermott was a late-round FYPD flyer of mine in a deep league, but throwing strikes has been an issue at times with seven walks over his previous two outings (9.2 IP). On this day he tossed his first walkless outing while setting his strikeout best. McDermott’s fastball can get up to 97-98 mph, as he plays the full trio of secondaries off it: slider, curveball, and changeup. A big fastball with an array of good secondaries was the appeal, but it’s a work in progress, with secondary execution needing improvement. The whole package, mixed and executed fairly well dominated a high-A lineup, although talented, in a bit of transition, as you’d hope it would. Here are the ten strikeout pitches:
The changeup might be the furthest behind, but when it came out, it was executed well. McDermott was splitting up the zone, throwing darn near anything at any time, giving these guys no chance. He really only made one bad pitch during his last inning of work, a hanging breaking ball:
This is the pitcher I hoped for, but we’re far from any victory laps consistency needs to come, especially when he gets to double-A. This profile of velocity, an array of secondaries (potentially) executed well, while keeping pressure on hitters, fits the bill of what I’m after. Encouraging outing, now let’s keep it rolling, which hasn’t been the course of his first eleven high-A tries. Interestingly, McDermott tends to give up runs when he’s the piggyback “starter” in the Astros’ “two-starter” routine. Maybe something to monitor?
Three 2021 Draft 6th/7th-round, less-heralded college arms, off to nice pro careers
Aaron Davenport, High-A Lake County (Cle)
|Our #92, my last pick in several FYPDs, racked up a season-high in strikeouts but left us longing for plenty.|
The 2021 sixth-rounder out of Hawaii got my attention during his brief pro introduction last season. The main attraction is a big curveball commanded fairly well and an improving fastball in a system known for improving such things. Davenport also offers a developing changeup, a fast pace keeping pressure on hitters, and a willingness to throw any of his offerings at any time, which are attributes I seek. The one big box to check is that of the requisite execution of a full repertoire. Davenport is a different cat with an ability to locate his big curveball well, but the rest leaves much to be desired. Seeing the line this day made me hope. Seeing the video didn’t. Davenport was the quintessential effectively wild pitcher. The big breaker was there for him, but the fastball and changeup were liable to land anywhere. To Davenport’s advantage, the fastball was running off high arm-side, which produced a challenge for right-handed hitters like below. There were several such unintentional brushback pitches, and when you’re trying to hit that breaking ball, it produced an old-school effect benefiting Davenport:
To Davenport’s credit, he got himself into several 3-0/3-1 counts but was able to battle back. Maybe he should just pretend the count is 2-0 at 0-0, as execution improved when up against it? He also, again, showed the fearlessness to throw pitches he was clearly not feeling in three-ball counts, which I put as a plus in my book. With such an attack, trying to improve as a well-rounded pitcher, it’s easy to understand why walks and inefficiency have been a problem, but I’d rather a guy hammer it out than shy away. Here’s a look at more strikeout pitches:
There’s a legit MLB strikeout weapon in here, but the fastball, whose velocity used to be more of an issue, now seems to have a significant command issue. This was great production for low-A, as other than a double and single by Jack Stronach, Fort Wayne couldn’t put much in play. Yet, if Davenport is going to make it as a starter in a crowded system, he has to harness the whole arsenal better. There are encouraging signs he’s going about things correctly, including a slightly toned-down delivery from last year, but there’s plenty of work to do, and there isn’t a jump in dynasty value as hoped…yet anyways.
Spencer Arrighetti, High-A Asheville (Hou)
|The 2021 6th-rounder out of Louisiana-Lafayette had his whole arsenal on display during a five-inning “piggyback start”.|
Arrighetti’s four-seam fastball was touching 97 per broadcast, and it was overwhelming. Greenville hitters were drastically swinging underneath it, lending belief it’s velocity plus deception providing challenges to hitters. Arrighetti has a reputation as being an analytics darling, as the hard slider was too much for Greenville to handle as well. The delivery is smooth, and the whiffs plentiful. A curveball was offered to lefties, and feel for a “developing” changeup looked there, as he used it in one of two big moments:
Arrighetti wasn’t out there simply overpowering with a few bigger-than-his-level offerings, he was mixing and picking spots too. Sequencing changed up the second time through the lineup, and the execution of the whole toolbox was impressive after a first inning of settling in. Alex Binelas lined a hard triple down the line, and Matthew Lugo lined a hard double as well, but other than that, Greenville couldn’t square him up. Here are the eight strikeout pitches:
Arrighetti has a big-league arsenal to start and get whiffs. The question has been the execution of it, and this outing endorsed he can. There have been outings of inefficiency and walks, so proving it over the long haul needs to happen, but there’s dynasty interest in deep leagues here. The Astros have been able to grow some of their own, and Arrighetti has a chance to assert himself as one of the top arms in their system performing like this.
Noah Cameron, High-A Quad Cities (KC)
|The 7th-round pick out of Central Arkansas continues to rack up Ks with a slow/slower/and slowest attack.|
Cameron caught my attention when he threw 12 strikeouts in four innings during his high-A debut (5/22/22) against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league (Dayton). He again racked up strikeouts this outing, but this isn’t a profile typically conducive to major league strikeout upside. Cameron’s fastball sits around 89/90 mph with a changeup as the strikeouts machine. This was dominance via a good secondary at a level hitters aren’t accustomed to well-executed secondaries. Peoria’s lineup may not even be full high-A caliber to boot. Cameron mixed in a sporadic curveball that’s an obvious work in progress. There are nice numbers going up by the 22-year-old, including 33 strikeouts over his first 18 high-A innings, and signs of pitching acumen, but the arsenal lacks my dynasty appeal at this juncture. Here are the nine strikeout pitches:
Ryan Murphy, High-A Eugene (SF)
|Our #45 sure can be tough to pick up, both hitters and us onlookers alike.|
Murphy’s first start against Spokane has been circled since his season commenced. Now five starts in, Murphy’s pitch count is over 80 and it feels like a good time to dig in, facing a lineup familiar with him and leading the Northwest League in offense. We didn’t get a lot of 2021 archives of Murphy and his array of fastballs, two breaking balls, and changeup. This outing didn’t reveal a ton either, because, of course, MiLB.tv struck again. The broadcast of this high-profile matchup didn’t pick up until the third inning. So we didn’t see Murphy strikeout Eddy Diaz, strikeout Zac Veen, and get Drew Romo to fly out to left field for a 1-2-3 first, nor did we get him striking out Grant Lavigne, getting Colin Simpson to groundout to first, and striking out Julio Carreras for a 1-2-3 second. The third only lasted eight pitches, as he gave up a leadoff single to Ronaiker Palma and then blitzed through, inducing soft contact. Spokane began squaring him up after this though. Here’s some solid contact:
Eugene’s camera angle often has a shortstop between us and the catcher, making reading signs tough. Without the greatest sense of what was being called, here are some strikeouts:
Murphy seems to give hitters fits with two deceptive fastballs. There are two breaking balls and a changeup as well, but Murphy’s low-90s fastballs (also throws a cutter) get the most whiffs, at least this outing. Murphy can spin and locate breaking balls, but Spokane didn’t have too hard a time with them, often spitting on tantalizing locations. Still not having the greatest feel for Murphy, we’ll revisit, but there’s a large set of tools here with an ability to execute them. Wondering how much strikeout upside is here feels fair, but he’s not short on it right now. Murphy is a tough dynasty read. Working on it. If there were more velocity it’d be easier.
Porter Hodge, Low-A Myrtle Beach (ChC)
|The 2019 mid-round prep arm is turning out to be a draft win for the Cubs.|
The big-bodied (6’4″ 230 lb) 2019 13th-round prep out of Utah is one of the most productive starters in the Carolina League. His 2.80 ERA is fourth-best amongst active qualified pitchers, and top ten in strikeouts, doing so while younger than his competitors. The 21-year-old held one of the better offenses in the league to one run. In the first two innings, Hodge was able to avoid damage as he fought to find a feel for anything. The third inning started with a hit batsman, the only legit hit he allowed, a double play, and this:
He ended the third striking out, arguably, the best hitter in the league, and something clicked. Hodge went from a guy struggling to locate a 96 mph four-seamer and slider, to a mixing machine, throwing it all to good spots. Hodge has a two-seamer he likes to front door lefties with, a curveball, a slider and even tried a changeup. Hodge went on to strike out the next five hitters. Here are those entire at-bats:
That was quite the flip of the switch after battling with himself. So which Hodge can we expect, first two and a half innings, or second? The second looked like a premium pitching prospect. We’ll see Hodge again down the road, perhaps at a higher level, but a name firmly planted on my map.
Jordan Balazovic, Triple-A St. Paul (Min)
|Our #8’s first triple-A run has had it’s bumps and bruises, but there were encouraging signs upon his unexpected(?) outing.|
Balazovic last pitched on May 11th and shuffling within the organization initiated a quicker than planned return. Balazovic was on a pitch count and signaled he was done in the third inning. No reason for concern. He was putting some work in and had enough. The first month of triple-A has had its growing pains, figuratively and literally, but there hasn’t been a giant red flag appearing, just run-of-the-mill lessons and lack of precision. In this game, the fastball command wasn’t there to start and the below leadoff double, followed by an error on a bunt put Balazovic in an early pickle:
With runners on the corners and no outs, Balazovic exuded good execution of a few pitches, in what was the biggest at-bat of his short day:
A look at the lone strikeout to start the second inning:
Balazovic gave up a hard single in addition to Stevenson’s double, but here are the other two hits:
It’s the middle of June and our offseason top ten has been spinning his wheels. Balazovic’s ability to execute his fastball at a high level gives confidence he’ll ride out these growing pains. Hopefully, some innings start piling up and we get a look as he understands he can’t get away with some things at this level. Still value the talent like an elite dynasty prospect, but there might be arms passing him up. Is his opponent this outing one of them? (Cole Henry didn’t have nice results, but we just talked about him last week.)
Josue Panacual, High-A Hudson Valley (NYY)
|The 20-year-old Venezuelan set a personal best strikeout mark during his third high-A try.|
Top 10 alert? Hard to outduel a guy (Ben Brown) going six, giving up one, while striking out 11, but that’s exactly what Panacual did. This was a video game-like execution of video game pitches. Check out the carnage his three pitch-mix did to Jersey Shore:
Make strikes look like balls and balls look like strikes. Panacual was executing his three offerings all over the black and luring hitters to chase. (I call the high-80s offering a “changeup” as four fingers were used to call it, but there were no good views of the grip, so it may be something else.)
Two line-drive singles were the highest a Blue Claw got the ball off the ground. Ten groundouts on the day. The six hits were all singles, and three were softly hit. Panacual induced a ground ball for a double play immediately after one single, and his defense helped with two others; a caught stealing and an outfield assist when Ethan Wilson tried a hustle double. Panacual kept himself busy as well, inducing soft one hoppers back to himself, one of which he errored on. Despite some baserunners, there was never a threat Jersey Shore would score.
Panacual was truly dominant, and despite his small frame with long limbs, this performance held the requisite execution to be a starter. Will the arsenal produce as many whiffs against better hitters, or just hope to manufacture all those groundballs? This introduction to Panacual holds dynasty appeal to me. Pitching like this, executing electric frisbees all over the corners of the zone feels worth a speculative roster spot in large leagues. (I’ve been told he hasn’t been entered into Fantrax’s system yet.)
Mitch Bratt, Single-A Down East (Tex)
|The 18-year-old from Ontario struggled to find a breaking ball feel but showed plenty to be excited about.|
Bratt was taken in the 2021 fifth round after playing high school ball in Georgia. He’s one of the youngest players in full-season, while far from the rawest pitcher. Bratt’s fastball is said to sit low-90s with an ability to touch 95 mph. The broadcast didn’t clue us in on velocity this time, but it was effective in missing bats. Here are the seven strikeout pitches:
Bratt, I believe, was throwing a slider (maybe more like a cutter), and getting it to go vaguely where he wanted. The more traditional curveball was not controlled, missing consistently well-high arm side. Bratt’s current attack is more fastball/changeup. I’m not sure what the following offering was:
Above was the first pitch of his last inning, and below is the last pitch put into play:
The slider spun unconstructively at times, but at the end of the day, there’s a well-rounded starting pitcher trying to come out. Bratt’s more than holding his own thru 24 IP; 3.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 34 K, 9 BB. The arsenal might not scream electric, but if a breaking ball can emerge, there’s an advanced pitcher brewing here. The profile inspires as much dynasty hope a lefty without a breaking ball can for me. Bratt seems worthy of deep speculative spots if you don’t have the same lefty breaking ball bias as I.
Gavin Williams, Double-A Akron (Cle)
|The 23rd pick of last year’s draft made his double-A debut against a first-place team, proving the stuff is going to play.|
We last saw Williams in his pro debut impressing enough to make the top 10. Trying to use the early innings to establish the big fastball, things got a little rocky:
He also allowed his first home run as a pro:
Above would be the only hit allowed on a day Williams’ execution wasn’t great, but the stuff overmatched a talented Somerset lineup. The Guardians let Williams run up a pitch count, but inefficiency kept him from going deeper. Williams got a dose of pitching against better hitters when he’d get ahead 0-2, only to get to full counts as he tried to induce chase. Conversely, Williams did well to battle back when down 3-0. He had something like six full counts in a row at one point. Signs were hard to get this broadcast, so don’t quote me on all the pitches, but the whole arsenal seemed to come out; four-seam, two-seam, slider, curveball, and changeup. Here are the five strikeout pitches:
Williams was starting to give up harmless hard contact the last inning or so:
Again loving how Williams is working on the whole repertoire. The way the first inning went, rolling with the big four-seamer and curveball could have easily played, but the bigger pitches aren’t getting used as a crutch. The touted curveball only came out a few times. Williams’ fastball command will be something to watch the next outing, but Williams is asserting himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
Cole Winn, Triple-A Round Rock (Tex)
|After surrendering hard contact and runs in the first inning, our off-season #10 put zeros on the board the rest of the way.|
Admittedly, Winn sitting with a 5+ ERA in June wasn’t what we were betting on, but production has been increasing, including a nine-strikeout, one-run outing last week. Winn pitched Tuesday and Sunday this week, so both outings were abbreviated. It’s fairly simple for Winn and what it takes to be successful at this level…don’t make mistakes over the middle of the plate. Winn’s offerings aren’t going to blow this level of hitter away if located poorly, and I think he’s learning this. At the same time, Winn may be feeling some effects of the PCL going to an automated strike system. There sure seemed like quite a few close ones we may be used to called strikes, weren’t. Winn has shown the ability to execute a well-rounded arsenal at a high level, he just hasn’t quite been that crisp during our looks. These guys can hit good pitches. Here are two at-bats that ended well:
Winn still sits in this elite/near-elite pitching prospect range for me as some lumps your first go around in the PCL aren’t going to scare me away.
PPL&R 2022 Top 10 Outings
(This season’s outings that WOW’d us or got us thinking about a player in a different, positive manner.)
Link to google doc housing lines of all minor league starts and extended relief appearances this past week.
Graphic by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)