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Prospect Pitcher Review: May 23rd – May 29th

Meet Ben Brown and is Gavin Stone laying claim to #1 LAD?

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.)

 

Tuesday 5/23

(Teetering Tuesday)

 

Angel Zerpa, Double-A Northwest Arkansas (KC)

 

 

Zerpa was a popular watch of mine in 2021 culminating in his five-inning, four-strikeout, scoreless MLB debut versus Cleveland on 9/30/21. Trying to evaluate Zerpa for dynasty purposes feels like a devil on one shoulder and an angel on another. Zerpa’s aggressive nature is an appealing trait, yet it might also be his biggest hurdle. Attempting to gauge Zerpa’s arsenal has proven tricky as well, as there’s never been a good angle for video review. The lone Savant data from the MLB start sheds a little light, but even then, Zerpa’s stuff has fluctuated over his short pro career. Here’s the MLB start:

For whatever it’s worth, there may be another breaking ball he’s experimented with as well.

Midland’s broadcast has taken a step backward since last year when it offered a much better angle, and this particular feed was rough. To boot, there were cutaways during signs and deliveries, adding to the ever-growing difficulty of reviewing Zerpa. Changing speeds and working inside/outside was the gist of the attack. Here are (at least parts) of his first three strikeouts of the day:

This outing felt a lot like Zerpa as a whole: aggressive strike-throwing with hard contact when he missed his spots. Innings were a hard-hit double mixed in with strikeouts, batter to batter, it was up and down. Midland was out trying to hit first-pitch fastballs and they did so well.

Another Zerpa watch and more questions than answers. The #51 slot still feels about right, on the periphery of dynasty interest. As I watch new arms and gather definite interest in some of them, Zerpa slides, but I wonder what comes the day we get a better look. Zerpa is a tough one. The ability to get strikeouts to end innings/threats against good hitters appeals and the glimpse of it working in the majors is hard to shake.

 

Ethan Small, Triple-A Nashville (Mil)

 

 

There might not be a pitcher capable of getting more from less. Small’s high-80s to low-90s fastball, which he uses well, is really the appetizer to his big offering: a high-70s changeup. We had hoped breaking balls teasing potential last season would take a step forward. Wondering if an uptick in 2022 K/9 (11.5) paired with a drop in strike percentage was an indication of more breaking balls, it was time to look in. Not to mention speculation Small’s call-up could be around the corner (note: Sunday news claimed he was coming up). Toledo couldn’t manage to get much off the ground this outing. If they did, it was an infield pop-up. Here’s how the lone run happened after a bloop single:

The attack was fastball/changeup the first four innings; up/down/slow/slower. Small executed this attack alright. It wasn’t the best Small I’ve ever seen, but the contact was mostly weak and the remaining three hits were a swinging bunt chopper single, a groundball double inches from being foul, and the lone line drive on the day for a single.  The whiffs weren’t coming often though. Here’s the first strikeout (third inning):

Then in the fifth, we see a breaking ball trying to put hitters away. Small did it the first time, but the next few attempts weren’t competitive. Here’s the one that did its job, and one in there that didn’t:

Small can pitch and offers hitters a different look with the body parts flying at them and different paces toward the plate, but the soft-tossing lefty isn’t quite spinning it like we’d want to get the dynasty juices flowing. Small’s starting to get passed up by some for me, but all it takes is some MLB success or outings looking more diverse than today’s to change the tune. Not betting a fantasy monster happens at this point, but some quality major league innings are in the cards.

 

Wednesday 5/25

 

Griff McGarry, High-A Jersey Shore (Phi)

 

 

The 2021 fifth-round pick is the classic story of all the nasty stuff in the world, but can’t command it. The production and word on the streets point toward McGreevy starting to harness it. What was almost a walk per inning in college is down to ten in 18.1 High-A innings. McGarry hasn’t gone deep into games, but the outings are starting to grow in length. His previous outing wasn’t good, but he bounced back to put together a nice line this day. Reportedly, McGarry’s fastball can get up to 98/99. The highest broadcast reading was 94, claiming his fastball sat 91 mph. Is this low-90s fastball where McGarry needs to be to execute it? Here’s the first inning and a good sense of how tough the fastball is on hitters:

Those are three very good hitters unable to handle the fastball. McGarry mixed it up more the following innings with the fastball finishing off four hitters and the breaking ball another three. Six of the seven strikeouts were swinging. You also see a wild breaking ball try above, reminding us of the wart. The fastball had its wildness as well, in and out of the zone, but for the most part, he was able to keep it around the plate:

(There was a changeup mixed in with those fastballs above.) For four innings, only walks and this single created baserunners:

The big fastball/breaking ball combo holds fantasy dreams and the changeup didn’t look shabby when shown. McGarry’s 34 strikeouts in 18.1 innings is salivating stuff. Ultimately, the bet is how likely you think this once graded 30-control pitcher tightens up to MLB level starter? It’s not a bet I’m into taking much anymore, despite the progression made, at least until I see consistent improvement for a long stretch. Such a jump would be an outlier I’d lose no sleep over being wrong.

 

Gavin Stone, Double-A Tulsa (LAD)

 

 

Stone, regrettably, wasn’t part of our offseason review, but a wise reader steered us in the right direction (link). Stone’s off to a fantastic 2022, now two Double-A starts in, he hasn’t given up a run in 10 innings while striking out 15 and walking two. Stone’s live fastball gets up to 96 mph, but the development of the changeup has been impressively remarkable. Not to bury Stone’s nasty slider, but the changeup’s ability to slam on the breaks and head right is adding a level of juice to Stone’s profile dynasty prognosticators need to account for. How many changeups are doing this to hitters?:

The changeup isn’t completely polished and harnassed, as there was a handful getting away from Stone, but as a whole, it’s rounding out a nasty three-pitch arsenal. Considering Stone’s execution of a big fastball/nasty slider combo, adding a third big pitch and we’re rolling out helium tanks. Here’s a look at his seven strikeouts on the day:

The four hits were a bloop, swinging bunt, and two seeing-eye groundball singles. Stone pretty much dominated the most advanced lineup he’s ever faced. If the changeup continues to look this effective, Stone’s jumping Bobby Miller as my most desired Dodger starting pitcher prospect, as he now has plenty of well-executed nasty paired with a more consistent feel to fulfill fantasy profits. Giddy up!

 

Thursday 5/26

 

Steve Hajjar, Single-A Fort Myers (Min)

 

 

 

The 6’5″ 240-pound Michigan alum has been building his pitch counts and getting his legs, saving his best pro outing for his first broadcast one. Hajjar showcased his advanced attack led by the execution of a healthy pitch mix.

A hanging breaking ball was the only mistake leading to production for the Mauraders, and even then Hajjar shut down the threat with strikeouts. Hajjar dominated this lineup.  Here’s a look at the ten strikeout pitches:

Up/down, inside/outside, fast/slow, Hajjar had it all going, showing the draft stock. It’s clear how devastating he can be at this level, but for our dynasty purposes, Hajjar’s stuff still holds dynasty mystery/questions. Can we assume the execution of the attack is capable of getting more advanced hitters off-balanced? I think so, and more performances like this will come with significant dynasty interest. Hopefully, a promotion comes quick and we get more broadcasts sooner, rather than later. A priority watchlist guy if nothing else.

 

Rodney Theophile, Single-A Fredericksberg (Was)

 

 

Over eight 2022 Single-A starts, Theophile’s put up a sub-1 WHIP, sub 1.50 ERA, and 55 strikeouts over 43.1 innings, while only walking nine. Theophile can get his fastball up to 96 mph, and there may be a few varietals of it. The fastball execution was good this outing, but the same can’t be said for the breaking ball(s?). Several “back-foot” breaking balls to lefties almost hit their front feet, and several others missed their marks by a wild margin. The changeup wasn’t offered nearly as much, but it had nice moments.  The fastball-heavy attack worked well, as Salem couldn’t get much going, with two of the three hits being infield singles. Even when Theophile tried to help, surrendering a non-competitive walk or two, he still shut the door. Three of Theophile’s four strikeouts came against Niko Kavadas. Here are two of them, which happen to be the first and the last of the game:

 

Kavadas got Theophile’s two best at-bats of the day there, which leaves me to wonder…was this a typical Theophile outing, or an outlier? The last few starts have seen an increase in groundballs with a decrease in strikeouts. Is Theophile throwing a sinker, or a sinker as well as a four-seamer? Has the breaking ball feel been elusive all season or just this day?  In the end, there are more questions about the big 6’5″ rocket arm to be thought about the next time we catch him, but this version lacks dynasty appeal for me.

 

Friday 5/27

(Raya vs. Solometo)

 

Marco Raya, Single-A Fort Myers (Min)

 

 

(Savant calls some changeups “sinkers” and some sliders “cutters”.)

Raya’s four-pitch mix has ingredients with big-league bite. The fastball/slider combo was the most gone to, but the curveball coming out later flashed. The changeup is a work in progress, needing more separation from the fastball. Here are the first six strikeout pitches, followed by the entire sequence of the seventh:

 

The fastball has the velocity, but it surrendered the most damage this day. (Mike Jarvis also had a hard hit double off a fastball his next at-bat):

A first-inning lead-off walk and error led to the other run surrendered on a day Raya controlled an offense, overwhelming with the stuff more than pitching. Yet, Raya flashes some pitch ability. The ability to spin both the curveball and slider later in the outing impressed sparking more excitement over the 19-year-old’s starter upside. We aren’t going to get a lot of looks at Raya this season, so patching together stats with this view is required when we throw dynasty value down. As of now, Raya intrigues as an exciting watchlist type, looking less rough around the edges than a lot of teenagers we’ve viewed this season.

 

Anthony Solometo, Single-A Bradenton (Pit)

 

 

(Savant mislabeled Solometo’s sinker as a changeup throughout the outing. As you will see below.)

Listed at 6’5″, 220 pounds, Solometo offers the dream of a big lefty giving both right and left-hand hitters fits from a wide release point. This is a good look at attack and arsenal. Included is the Savant plotting, in which you’ll find a mislabeled changeup:

 

The first inning was rough, but the good news was, other than the single above, Fort Myers couldn’t square him up. The attack was mixing speeds, inside/outside, keeping the ball down, and you could see he had the right idea for the arsenal. The execution was alright, but all three pitches were liable to fly off the rails. Solometo kind of settled in the last two innings, but Fort Myers also helped him with a third of his outs via poor baserunning.

Pittsburgh’s three million dollar dream has the requisite foundation of skill, but there are plenty of things to clean up. Solometo will have to get quicker to the plate out of the stretch, but more concerning is setting and showing his grip to runners and hitters. Solometo was tipping his pitches, and although I doubt it played into this day’s results, it’s something in need of change as he moves along. The changeup was supposed to be the third offering, but it was offered more than the slider this outing. An increase in velocity differential is probably required before the pitch legitimizes itself, but it’s a development we’ll want to track. A speculative share in a deep dynasty league is understandable, but again, profiles like Solometo’s just aren’t ones I’m baking a lot of dynasty value into until they show more.

 

Saturday 5/28

 

Ben Brown, High-A Jersey Shore (Phi)

 

 

The 2017 33rd-rounder out of New York (prep) might be amidst a breakout. There are two monsters leading the way; a mid-80s breaking ball appearing to accelerate toward Hades and some lively heat coming in between 90-94 mph. There is a fastball garnering significant arm-side run, and, perhaps, a four-seamer. Further sleuthing is needed to confirm or deny varietals of the fastball. Brown also tried a changeup as an out pitch on a few occasions, but he lacked a feel for it. Here are the 11 strikeout pitches on the day from the 6’6″ righty:

Sometimes you attempt to turn on Mick Abel, instead accidentally watching the wrong game of a doubleheader and finding a top 10 performance of the year. Brown is completely new to me, but he was tremendously executing the two-pitch combo, consistently putting the two big weapons where called. I’m not sure anyone got wood on the breaking ball, while the fastball was sent out for some deep flyouts and the lone hit (single by Joe Davis).

Over Brown’s last three starts; 16.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 30 K, 3 BB. We’ll be paying more attention to Brown from here on out, as there’s plus arsenal being executed at a level suited for an MLB try. This was definitely a top-10 type outing. Giddy up!

 

Ky Bush, Double-A Rocket City (LAA)

 

 

The $1.7M fastball/slider combo was on full display this outing, keeping both right-handers and left-handers off balance. Bush did well ending the few threats via strikeout while almost escaping the third inning unscathed, as a double play attempt resulting in a run was bang-bang. Here are the first three strikeout pitches:

The slider and overall execution really took off at the end of the third inning, and he cruised through a near immaculate fourth:

And here are the final three strikeout pitches:

While Chase Silseth makes MLB starts, Brett Kerry racks up crazy strikeout numbers, and others from his draft class make noise, Bush is quietly putting together an impressive first Double-A run. Over eight starts (40.1 IP); 3.35 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 41 K, 11 BB, 66% strikes. As a lefty with a lively hard fastball and feel for a nasty breaking ball, Bush is proving his St. Mary’s version was worth the money. How much dynasty “money” is he worth? I’m not frantically grabbing shares, but the progression is of a guy we look up at the end of the year feeling like we missed a boat. Will the two big pitches carry more strikeout appeal as he learns how to optimize them? I want to think so.

 

Sunday 5/29

(Killer Slider Sunday)

 

Mike Vasil, High-A Brooklyn (NYM)

 

 

The line looks worse than the outing. Granted, the fastball command wasn’t what I assume it usually is for Vasil, but he pitched well. Both the walks burned him, as the first came around to score on the first (of two) hard-hit balls allowed, and the second scored on this:

Vasil started the fifth surrendering a single that would come around to score after he left the game. Other than the fastball command, the hard slider and slow curveball did their jobs impressively well. I don’t believe a changeup was offered, but it is in Vasil’s wheelhouse per reports. Here’s a look at the seven strikeouts pitches and the ability to simultaneously spin a few breakers with accuracy:

There’s a full arsenal utilized in a manner capable of getting the best hitters in the world out consistently. Vasil impressed attacking hitters differently the second time through, making you long to see what would happen a third time. I’m giving Vasil a pass with the poor fastball command driving up counts early in the game, leading to the outing’s inefficiency, but there’s a lot we’re looking for showing here. The strike efficiency was higher over the eight Single-A appearances (66%), jiving with the overall secondary command we saw this outing. Vasil, yet another Virginia arm finding success as a pro has our dynasty attention, expecting a fast, successful, High-A run.

 

Mason Black, High-A Eugene (SF)

 

 

Black dominated Single-A over eight starts with a sub-1 WHIP, 1.57 ERA, and 44 K over 34.1 innings. The 2021 third-round pick out of Lehigh had a monster first try with Eugene Sunday. The scariest part is Black had stretches loosely executing his attack. The fastball/slider combination took front stage, with a changeup sprinkled in from time to time. The first few innings Black got into long counts as he tried mixing the attack, but even in doing so, he was keeping the Tri-City offense at bay. At one point he struck out six in a row. Black did well to erase some baserunners via double play. Tri- City failed to muster much of a threat, able to scratch one across after Black failed to keep a runner in check. Allowing steals has been an issue for Black. Here are the 10 strikeout pitches on the day:

It will be interesting to see how long it takes the 22-year-old to join Kyle Harrison in a rotation at Double-A or above. As far as weapons go, Black feels a bit like Harrison from the right side. A big lively fastball and a late-breaking hard slider, except Black may “pitch” with his a little more. Black strikes dynasty interest, but it’s subdued for me until we see more efficiency as strike-throwing issues popped up in San Jose.

 

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)

Nate Handy

Nate is an advocate of drafting more pitchers. Originally from the planet Eternia, he aspires to become the Master of the Prospect Universe....or just watch baseball, share observations, and have an enjoyable dialogue about this great game, particularly the young players trying to make the major leagues.

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