These aren’t the “best outings” of the week per se, but rather an attempt to keep abreast of prospects’ development while trying to get a leg up on our dynasty opponents. There was a rank this offseason after a massive video review (link to offseason review series and rank list), but ranks aren’t our main focus now; watching, reporting, keeping tabs on developments, catching new names, and thinking about dynasty value is.
(Note: If you are on your phone, turn it horizontal to view the entirety of the game line tables.)
Mike Burrows, Double-A Altoona (Pit)
|Our offseason #100 is off to a nice start in Double-A, but even more encouraging are developments in the arsenal we had hoped for.|
A small sample size of viewable 2021 innings impressed enough to sneak on the back end of our list. The fastball/breaking ball combo was the main attraction while hoping the changeup would grow. Through his first four Double-A starts, spanning 18 innings, he’d only surrendered two runs, striking out 23. Anxious for a look, Erie offers a decent angle to see the fruits of the work Burrows expressed putting in the AFL. First at-bat of the game:
(K vs. Daniel Cabrera)
Then he finished the inning with another one:
(K vs. Gage Workman)
Curious if his new and improved split-change would come out against righties:
(Split-change for K vs. B-Side Andre Licpcius)
That’s an exciting development, and his best pitch of the day, responsible for the most strikeouts while allowing no hits, let alone hard contact. In addition, the 94-97 mph fastball I pegged as a sinker, making me long for a weapon to attack up in the zone might have a mate. After hearing things about his riding fastball, questioning if I got this pitch wrong, now wondering if there’s two fastballs, as there may have been two different fastball signs and two different fastball shapes. More digging is required to confirm this.
Through the first three innings, Burrows cruised, allowing one groundball single. His defense errored a double play, doubling an inning’s pitch count. Sprinkle in some good pitches fouled off by good hitters and the pitch count ballooned. There were more balls than you’d love to see, but every pitch was competitive the first three innings. After two quick outs in the fourth, the rain picked up and the command got a little loose. Burrows walked one, then gave up the hardest contact of the day on a poorly placed fastball, scoring one. Two quick outs in the fifth, and then a Dillon Dingler double and Andre Licpcius RBI single called it a day.
Burrows needs more polish—holding runners, getting on the same page with his catcher, and throwing secondaries in three ball counts, but significant strides are being made in way of learning his craft. Curious how this start compares to the others, but the 22-year-old feels mighty close to more impressive results. Arrow up!
T.J. Shook, High-A Wisconsin (Mil)
|The undrafted 2020 free agent continued to make a name for himself dominating another Midwest League lineup.|
A prospecting friend asked about the ex-South Carolina Gamecock, who proceeded to put up a gaudy line. Shook is big, standing 6’4″, seemingly holding strong through six. Without a gun, hints from the broadcast, and knowing hardly any history, the stuff remains mysterious to me. At-bats needed reviewing several times to get an idea of the offerings. To boot, the optics of Shook’s arsenal can seem subtle. I would love to know some pitch analysis on him, but we still had plenty to see. The arsenal appears to be a two-seam (or sinker), changeup, curveball, and a pitch whose sign is pointer finger and pinky finger looking like a cutter or hard slider or some variant. The first time through the lineup produced plenty of weak contact, then some strikeouts piled up—four in a row at one point. Here are the second and third strikeouts of said stretch:
Shook’s name fit, as he was all about shaking off his catcher, convicted in what he wanted to offer. He did so well, mixing up the whole arsenal. Impressive outing filling up the zone and keeping the ball off barrels. The hits were mostly cheapies and the outfielders never had to run backward. Curious to learn more about his offerings and see how they play against a lineup up for the challenge more than Fort Wayne was this day.
Juan De Los Santos, Single-A Delmarva (Bal)
|The teenager’s raw power arm continued to produce results.|
De Los Santos has a 1.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 21 K, and 10 BB over his first five full-season starts (21 IP). (This start included.) The 2019 international signee from the D.R. is a large 19-year-old, listed at 6’3″ and 250 pounds. His fastball is large too, said to sit around 95 mph. Fastballs are labeled as two or four-seamers in our poor quality gif (Columbia feed was rough) below, but don’t quote me 100%:
The above stretch was the most we saw the breaking ball. Maybe not so coincidentally, he struck out the side and was his most impressive self. Unfortunately, the breaking ball feel wasn’t very good. The two hits allowed? A lead-off double via hanging breaking ball by Joshua Rivera and a solo home run off a poorly located fastball by Rubendy Quintana. With a 60% strike rate on the season, De Los Santos has been doing alright in these regards, but he’s far from commanding much. Some powerful clay just hitting the ground for the Orioles to mold, but far from sounding the dynasty alarm over here, at least after this one look against a questionable lineup. De Los Santos will be fun to check in on later this season and see if shine’s come.
Bryce Miller, High-A Everett/Single-A Modesto (Sea)
|Unable to enter Canada where Everett is playing this week, Miller’s mixed-bag outing against a red hot Fresno lineup leaves us with many of the same questions.|
Miller had some deep FYPD love this offseason after a senior year at Texas A&M contained success as a starter. His first two seasons of college ball were out of the pen, where many believe he’ll end up as a pro. His first three starts with Everett have produced results, allowing only three runs and striking out 20 in 16.2 innings. There’s a three- to four-pitch arsenal headlined by a mid-90s fastball. I read conflicting reports about his breaking ball(s) but in this outing a distinct vertical dropping breaker was the main secondary. There were a few harder horizontal breakers sprinkled in. A changeup was offered on occasion with little feel for it.
The biggest question is if Miller can execute pitches at the requisite rate. There were stretches he commanded the arsenal at more a strike-throwing level. There were also stretches things got mighty loose. To be fair, he just got thrust into a new team with a new catcher and it showed. There were cross-ups, passed balls, and a wild pitch I’d call a passed ball. The wildness in the zone, particularly with the breaking ball is what hurt Miller most. Here’s one:
(2B Warming Bernabel)
Fresno has a talented young roster, and they squared Miller up fairly well. Perhaps deserving of poorer results, but his left fielder Jonaton Clase didn’t help him either. (Clase has plenty of work to do defensively.) There were a lot of cut-away shots and things making it hard to stay abreast of Miller’s attack like the video below will show, but, especially early on, there was a lot of mixing of offerings, feeling like Miller was throwing everything until he found what was comfortable. There didn’t seem much intent behind pitch selection other than mixing to mix and trying to throw over the plate. Here was his last batter faced and third strikeout of the game:
(K vs. Hunter Goodman)
Seattle did well selecting a talented arm in the fourth round, but watching him work through this start was real hot and cold. We’ll keep an eye out, but not sounding the dynasty alarm at this point.
Taylor Dollard, Double-A Arkansas (Sea)
|The 2020 fifth-round pick entered this with a 0.00 ERA and kept a stout Frisco lineup in check with his unique attack.|
Reviewing some of Dollard’s 2021 Cal League outings and then watching his ERA balloon while blacked out in High-A, a top-100 slot didn’t feel warranted, thinking the stuff wasn’t up to snuff. Then a 0.00 ERA over 13 April Double-A innings happened, requiring a look-in. Dollard is a different watch. I don’t recall such heavy usage of his 78-80 mph slider. Usage had to be around 66% with four, five, or six coming at a time. Here’s one of three strikeouts on the day, representative of the heavy slider usage, at least the first time through a tough lineup:
(K vs. Josh Stowers)
Despite the heavy usage, it proved the most difficult for Frisco to square up. Jonathan Ornelas started off the game lacing a fastball for a hard line-drive single (then picked off by Dollard at first base). Justin Foscue likely had the hardest hit ball off a slider for a double next at-bat. Dustin Harris flied out to right, then Ezequiel Duran hard hit a fastball to the gap for an RBI double. There’d be no more threats to score over the next four innings, only a harmless single providing a baserunner, but the fastball and curveball did induce some loud harmless contact.
Despite offering a 93 mph fastball, it appears quite hittable. Instead, it’s a slow attack with the slider, a curveball liable to hit the 60s, and a changeup in the low 80s without a fastball to play off of much. Dollard executes his arsenal extremely well though, with only a few curveballs getting non-competitive. The well placed slow stuff is hard to square up:
(Pop up Dustin Harris)
That’s a nine-pitch at-bat that never got to 2-2. This was the most extreme example, but there were long at-bats pitch-wise never getting to deep counts responsible for his inefficiency. Yet, Dollard has racked up decent strikeout numbers; 133 in 105 2021 innings and 14 over his first 13 double-A innings this season. Was this outing an accurate representation of how he’s been pitching, or just his best feel this day? On the execution end of the spectrum, Dollard is off the charts. On the arsenal end, I just don’t know, it’s so different from what you usually see. The first time through the lineup I wondered if it was all a setup to sabotage hitters with the fastball the second look, but it wasn’t the case. The slider accounted for two of the strikeouts while a swing and miss on the fastball got the other. We’ll have to dig more on this peculiar arm later in the season.
Brayan Bello, Double-A Portland (Bos)
|Our #55 is a buzzy name these days. Tossing a complete-game no-no is only going to bring more, right?|
Originally wanted to hold off checking in on Bello, but a seven-inning no-hitter lured me in. Per our offseason review, the arsenal holds plenty of upside, especially if it’s played in the zone more, and we were waiting on it tightening up before activating helium tanks. To be no fun at parties, this outing did nothing to change that opinion. In fact, it may have further cast doubt on Bello’s future as a potential MLB starter. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with good fortune. Here was Bello’s:
Bello’s adrenaline kicked in during the seventh inning, which was probably his best of the day. The big fastball was still hitting 95 mph 90+ pitches in. That’s impressive. The 58% strikes, not so much. Early in the outing, Bello was mixing his fastball/breaking ball/changeup with erratic locations. As the game progressed, he settled on an effectively wild fastball/breaking ball combo. Eli Marrero, his catcher, was trying to help Bello hone in the command but you saw him get visibly frustrated mid-way through the outing. There were a couple of leadoff walks. One led to the run after Bello’s defense committed a few errors. Bello bowed his neck to get out of said inning with a strikeout exuding what a stretch of command looked like this day:
(K vs. Jack Conley)
Fantastic results for the young firearm, but dropping this kind of execution, or lack thereof, in an MLB setting doesn’t give me dynasty excitement. Big-time kudos to Bello for understanding how to give himself the best shot of starting at the highest level, as he does try and “pitch” instead of hammering on his one big pitch, it’s just still a work in progress before more dynasty excitement comes here.
Kyle Harrison, High-A Eugene (SF)
|The Hops’ lineup could only manage to put three balls in play over four innings against our #76 arm.|
(Speaking of wanting to see more development before applying heavy dynasty value.) Harrison’s arm slot delivering the 93/94 mph fastball/late diving slider combo can be too much for lower-level hitters. As was the case this day. Here are his ten strikeout pitches:
They say Harrison has a changeup in the arsenal, and I suppose you could catch a few tries at one last season, but it appeared absent this day. This 2022 Harrison feels a lot like 2021; loosely spotting a couple big pitches to cruise through some lineups. The strike zone shrunk some today, but the 59% strike rate felt representative of the lack of true command. All the talent again on display, but when charged with the task of projecting this profile in the majors, the dynasty value bestowed by some just doesn’t make sense to me. The 20-year-old has plenty of time to learn his craft, maybe even come up with some new tools, but until he does, fearing the plastic attack’s gaudy numbers will carry him through minor league days racking up strikeouts, doing nothing in way of better preparing for the major leagues. These profiles are the pitfalls of the past we are refusing to make again. When developments happen, we can reassess, but so far, nothing shows up to significantly shrink that #76. The best part of tuning in was what was found on the other side of the bill:
Ross Carver, High-A Hillsboro (Arz)
|The 2021 20th-rounder is making silly work of High-A lineups. The stout Eugene bats were no exception as he out-classed Kyle Harrison and company.|
Carver’s fastball and its visible arm-side run sat 94 mph per the broadcast. Early, he was playing the slider off of it most, with a changeup sprinkled in, but the curveball feel came on down the stretch. Carver was carving up the plate, executing the whole arsenal well, only running into problems when a heavy rain came his last inning of work, causing some pitches to get away, leading to a few walks and all sorts of on-field confusion between him, the umpires, and mother nature. Here’s an at-bat early in the game:
(K vs. Marco Luciano)
And here are all ten of his strikeout pitches:
Having known nothing about Carver prior to this viewing, I want to know why. With an ability to execute and command a powerful, lively fastball, drop a hammer, spot a slider, and toss in a changeup, all on the same day…where’d this guy come from? This is the kind of pitching we can envision finding sustainable major league success. I dare say Carver would have given a major league lineup fits performing as he did. Now to see if this was just a day everything came together, or if Carver is capable of doing this on a consistent basis. If so, he’s going to get significant dynasty value from me. A very pleasant surprise.
Davis Martin, Triple-A Charlotte (CWS)
|Minus a few breaking balls finding hard contact, the 25-year-old more than held his own during his Triple-A debut.|
After an unremarkable couple of pro seasons, the 2018 14th-rounder’s arsenal took a jump. After eleven double-A starts between 2021 and 2022, whereupon Martin produced at a level he had not before, the ex-Red Raider is moving up the organization’s ranks quickly. Martin’s fastball now sits mid-90s. There are two breaking balls offered, with a more traditional slower hook looking better than the slider this outing. There may be a changeup (or they were backed up sliders). Here was one of four strikeouts on the day, illustrating the arsenal:
(K vs. Phil Gosselin)
In what feels a little more like a possible streamer name to watch, I’m not so sure there isn’t a smidge more to be excited about. Martin rarely threw a non-competitive pitch, with a hanging breaking ball or two responsible for the damage. (Two solo home runs.) Martin appears to have the requisite execution to at least give himself a chance against the best hitters in the world. We’ll keep an eye on Martin. If we don’t see him in 2022, he may fit the bill for a nice Rule 5 option for another club. Maybe a sneaky deep league name to file away?
Chris Murphy, Double-A Portland (Bos)
|Murphy continued Portland starters’ run of overwhelming Reading hitters.|
Murphy wasn’t reviewed this offseason, but it seems some strides have been made. His ERA is 3.35 runs better these six 2022 Double-A starts than his six+ 2021 Double-A starts. Strikeouts have come at a lesser rate, but everything else is producing better numbers. We don’t have many good opportunities to check out a lefties stuff, but from the reactions of the hitters, we got a sense Murphy’s stuff was screwing up all kinds of balances. There were only a few hard hit balls all day—unfortunately for Murphy, one of them put him in a hole early. After an error and a walk, Murphy missed with a changeup allowing three unearned runs to score:
(HR Josh Ockimey via changeup)
After a seeing-eye groundball single in the second inning, Murphy was lights out. A couple of walks were all Reading could muster against Murphy’s mixed attack, liable to get swing and miss on four different offerings:
The requisite execution of a varied attack, liable to come at hitters in a myriad of ways is a big attraction to us. The 23-year-old former sixth-round pick out of San Diego may not be long for Portland. Hopefully, we get a good angle providing better looks at the stuff one day. This outing was no no-no, but it may have been the best pitching performance of the week in Portland, and that’s saying something.
Mason Englert, High-A Hickory (Tex)
|Englert’s felt like a horse in the starting gates for a few years, but this Derby Sunday had some bite.|
Englert’s box scores have started taking form, so a look against one of the better lineups full of hitters “you haven’t heard of” felt like a date. The career has felt slow-moving, and it was the slow-moving stuff grabbing my attention. Signs from catcher Scott Kapers weren’t making sense to my eyes first pass through the archive. Slowing things down and investigating the four-fingered changeup sign, Englert’s throwing something with a unique grip. The index finger has a peculiar shape and placement for a changeup, like a knuckle-curve while he chokes the ball like a circle change, but is it coming out the fingers like a change?
Regardless, I’m calling it a knuckle-change and it was Englert’s preferred weapon this outing. The fastball, which I failed to get any velocity on, took a back seat to the knuckle-change, slider and curveball. Perhaps slow stuff was the plan, perhaps it just felt the best, but the Dash hitters sure seemed starved looking for fastballs. They hardly squared anything up all day.
(K vs. Brayan Ramos)
One of two “hits” on the day:
(“Single” Luis Mieses)
Englert wasn’t very efficient, throwing strikes under 60%, but it oddly didn’t feel like it. Most every pitch was competitive. The zone got a little small, and there was stuff falling out the bottom of it, but considering how many feel-pitches offered, the command impressed. No arguing against the results, but more fastballs would have been nice. There weren’t many and they didn’t seem to have much juice/swing and miss to them…maybe that’s why they stayed in? Englert looked different than expected and figuring out if that was good or bad may take more looks. Hmm.
Darius Vines, Double-A Mississippi (Atl)
|Vines’ fastball put Wahoo hitters on the ropes, and the secondaries knocked them out in the most dominant PPL&R outing of the season.|
Having seen Vines here and there this season, this 11-strikeout performance needed a look. Vines’ fastball sits mid-90s, but might be on the more “hittable” side. The changeup and slider compete for best secondary offering, and there’s a slow hook thrown in for good measure. Vines most impresses with his ability to execute all his pitches. For six plus innings today, he was a video game. The stuff and the ability to put it where he wanted came together. At one point Vines struck out seven in a row on 30 pitches (23 strikes). Here’s all 11 strikeout pitches:
Vines was much closer to perfection than the line looks. An unnecessary dive and missed flyout by Trey Harris in the sixth inning and a smidge of wildness in the zone poked it’s head out in the seventh, but even then, when Vines’ home run bugaboo came around, Michael Harris had a shot to save the three runs:
(3-run HR Griffin Conine off a fastball)
The long ball has been a bit of a thing for Vines who surrendered five in six starts. The 4.50 ERA is inflated by a blow-up outing against Brett Wisely and Montgomery, and recently turned 24-year-olds in Double-A may not excite, but there was a Double-A 24-year-old who fared well during his MLB debut this same day (George Kirby). Vines has the requisite command and ability to execute all his arsenal at the major league level. Keeping the fastball out of the heat maps might be the biggest key. The 2019 seventh-round pick is making a serious case for 40-man addition. He was so good…
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.)
Graphic by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)