Spring Training Prospect Roundup: Week 1

Notes on the top prospect performers from the past week

Welcome to the weekly prospect roundup! Each week during spring training we will provide news and notes on top prospects and highlight the top prospect performers from the past week.

Overall these will all be prospects with at least some dynasty relevance. I will try to provide updated scouting reports when necessary, but for the most part you can find full write-ups on the team-by-team Top-50 lists done by our wonderful dynasty team.

Though it’s hard to draw conclusions from spring training, there are a few things that I pay particular attention to. For the most part I look at mechanical adjustments and physical growth, which there is bound to plenty of given that we haven’t seen many of these prospects since last spring. For pitchers this also includes notable velocity and/or pitch mix changes. Though not all spring facilities have statcast, we can (and will) certainly take advantage of the ones that do.

Let’s get into the best prospects from week 1 of spring training:

 

Prospect News and Notes

 

 Hitters of the Week

 

Jarren Duran (OF, BOS, #4 prospect): 5-for-11, 2 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI

The Red Sox #4 prospect hit the ground running, fresh off competing for Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series just before camp began. The athletic outfielder made a swing adjustment and has improved his power in every season since being drafted out of Long Beach State in 2018. He has played in all six games for the Red Sox (alternating starts), while hitting second and playing solely CF . With Jackie Bradley Jr. officially signing with the Brewers, Duran is undoubtedly the Red Sox future in CF. It’s unlikely he makes the team out of camp, but there is a good chance he debuts at some point this season.

 

Bobby Witt Jr (SS, KCR, #1 prospect): 5-for-15, HR, 4 RBI

The Royals have given their top prospect quality time early in camp. Witt Jr. capped off a solid week with a two hit performance against the Giants on Saturday that included a homer in the 3rd inning. He got the start in the leadoff spot, but more notably has been seeing time at 2B with the Royals opting in favor of Nicky Lopez and Hanser Alberto at SS. Neither of those players pose much of a threat to Witt Jr., who is still the Royals shortstop of the future.

 

Josh Palacios (OF, TOR, unranked): 5-for-11, HR, 4 XBH, 6 RBI

Though not ranked in the Blue Jays Top-50, Palacios’ big week is worth a mention. The 25-year-old OF has risen up the Toronto depth chart, drawing praise from coaches at the alternate site in 2020. He has a power/speed combination that if nothing else makes him an intriguing depth option. He has been one of the Jays’ best hitters thus far, which included an amazing 3-for-3, 5 RBI performance on Friday in which he was a single shy of the cycle. He could push for a bench role if he continues to hit well and would be one of the first options for a call-up in the event of injury.

 

Andrew Vaughn (1B/DH, CWS, #1 prospect): 3-for-10, HR, 4 RBI, 4 BBs

From an unranked player to a more household name, White Sox top ranked prospect Andrew Vaughn has looked good early in camp, with a 3-run dinger against the Rangers on Tuesday and an RBI single on Saturday. He looks comfortable at the plate and has taken advantage of some wild cactus league pitching with 4 walks in just 12 total PAs. The White Sox have reportedly not ruled out leaving camp with Vaughn on the roster, with the potential of sharing 1B/DH duties with reigning AL MVP José Abreu.

 

Gabriel Arias (SS, CLE, #17 prospect): 6-for-6, 3 R, 2 RBI

Arias is still a perfect 6-for-6 on the spring. One of a seemingly endless supply of middle-infield prospects for Cleveland, the club’s #17 prospect is known more for his glove and power (17 HRs in 2019) but has contributed 6 singles in 6 ABs to far this spring. That supports his reportedly improved hit-tool and given the tools he already possesses could be a fast riser in 2021. This is certainly a player to keep an eye on as the minor league season resumes.

 

Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B, PIT, #1 prospect ): 4-for-8, 3 XBH, 2 RBI

Hayes was very impressive in his month-long 2020 debut and enters 2021 as one of the lone bright spots on a rebuilding Pirates roster. His defensive ability is well documented, but he has a strong hit-tool and consistently hits the ball very hard. So far this spring, three of Hayes’ four hits have gone for extra bases. Though he’s not a 30 HR threat, that combination provides a solid floor and should make him a doubles-machine as Pittsburgh begins to build a team around him.

 

Tristan Gray (1B, TBR, #32 prospect): 4-for-5, HR, 3B, 4 RBI

Though there are more than a few Tampa Bay infielders who draw more attention, the Rays #32 prospect was solid off the bench this past week. Gray is a polished hitter and lacks significant upside, but his proximity to the majors makes him a depth option in the ever-flowing Rays pipeline. His week started off with a bang as he hit a go-ahead two-run triple and a walk off two-run HR against Atlanta on the first day of camp.

 

Tucupita Marcano (INF, SDP, #12 prospect): 4-for-9, HR, 2 RBI

Marcano is a quietly productive middle infield prospect for the Padres and relatively close to the majors. He has risen up the organization depth chart by virtue of surviving AJ Preller’s offseason trade spree, but has advanced barrel feel and plate discipline for a 21-year-old. Though he’s unlikely to break-in with the big club this season, he’s made the most of his spring training playing time — putting together some pesky ABs with four hits and a two-run homer to show for it.

 

Pitchers of the Week

 

Daulton Jefferies (RHP, OAK, #1 prospect): 3 IP, H, 0 ER, 4 Ks

Jefferies made two starts this week, with a scoreless inning to open the A’s spring schedule and then a two inning start against the Mariners on Saturday. The 24-year-old former Cal standout was roughed up in his major league debut against the Rangers last season, but came into camp with an improved breaking ball and has looked sharp in both starts. He has a mid-90s fastball, quality changeup and great command, but has worked heavily on the breaking ball that he describes as a slurve. It’s obvious Oakland wants to give him innings early this season and he should be one of the favorites to win a spot in the A’s rotation.

 

Simeon Woods Richardson (RHP, TOR, #4 prospect): 2 IP, 0 H, BB, K

The Blue Jays 20-year-old righty got the start on Wednesday night and pitched 2 scoreless innings against a lineup of Yankees regulars. His command was spotty at times, throwing just 14 of 28 pitches for strikes, but showed a terrific 3-pitch sequence to strikeout Giancarlo Stanton. Via statcast, SWR threw 13 FF (sitting 91-94mph), 9 CU (80-83), 4 SL (91-92) and 2 CH (83-84). It’s an interesting arsenal that pairs power secondaries with fairly middling FB velocity, but there is still room to grow and the secondaries are collectively good enough to rely on.

 

Alek Manoah (RHP, TOR, #5 prospect): 2 IP, H, 0 ER, 4 Ks

The Jays 2019 first rounder followed SWR with an even more impressive scoreless outing on Wednesday. Manoah faced the same lineup of Yankees regulars, yielding just one hit while striking out 4. He split his arsenal almost evenly with 11 FF (97-98), 10 SL (84-85), and 10 FT (97-98). His outing was highlighted by a 9-pitch AB against Aaron Hicks, who continually fouled off fastballs before Manoah froze him with a back-door slider.

 

MacKenzie Gore (LHP, SDP, #1 prospect): 2* IP, 0 H, 3 BBs, 2Ks

The league’s top pitching prospect struggled with command in the first inning, walking the bases loaded and only recording 2 outs (one strikeout) before the inning was rolled due to pitch count. He came back for the second and looked better, striking out Nate Lowe to begin the frame and retiring the side in order on just nine pitches. He reportedly flashed an improved SL and was working 92-96mph via the notoriously unreliable stadium radar gun. Mechanical consistency is key for Gore, but he does not have much left to prove in the minors. Big additions leave him behind a collection of established arms, but the Padres have emphasized their plan to use depth all winter and Gore should be making big league starts at some point this season.

 

Bruce Zimmerman (LHP, BAL, #40 prospect): 2 IP, H, 0 ER, 4 Ks

Zimmerman did not have a particularly successful debut season in 2020, but the Orioles prospect is making a strong case to break camp with the club. He sits in the low 90s with the FB and shows an impressive SL that can reach the upper 80s, striking out 4 in 2 scoreless innings. The rebuilding Orioles lack established starters, but have a solid group of young arms that should get an extended look in 2021. Expect Zimmerman to be one of many Orioles pitchers that get a good chunk of innings in 2021, whether that be as a starter or in a multi-inning bullpen role.

 

Andre Jackson (RHP, LAD, #16 prospect): 2 IP, H, 0 ER, 3 Ks

Dodgers righty Andre Jackson is one of my favorite sleeper arms going into 2021. The 6’6″ conversion arm out of Utah only started pitching full time after being drafted, and has a FF that sits 93-96 with a power CU. His stuff (not to mention his hair) has been impressive in spring training thus far, punching out three in a pair of scoreless outings. The Dodgers certainly do not lack quality pitching, but Jackson will be pushing for a spot very soon.

 

Kyle Muller (LHP, ATL, #7 prospect): 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 Ks

Manager Brian Snitker was impressed with lefty Kyle Muller, who worked out of a jam and struck out 3 in his first outing of the spring. The lefty continues to improve his FF velocity (sitting 94-95) while also focusing on mechanical consistency. There has always been a hint of reliever risk with Muller, mainly stemming from a lack of quality secondaries, but I believe he can be a starter long term. He will begin the year in the Triple-A rotation, but will likely be one of the first called upon if depth is needed.

 

Spencer Howard (RHP, PHI, #1 prospect ): 1 IP, 0 H, 2 Ks

Though only an inning of work, Howard was sharp in his first outing of the spring with some notable velocity gains. A shoulder injury hampered Howard’s velocity in in 2020, and he reportedly came into camp feeling stronger than ever. He averaged 94 mph on his fastball last season, but was sitting 95-96 against the Pirates on Friday, hitting 96 or above on 6 of the 12 FBs he threw. The Phillies’ top pitching prospect has two quality secondaries to work with and is a front-runner to round out the club’s rotation. Look for Howard to carry this velocity over multiple innings as he gets stretched out this spring.

Luis Patiño (RHP, TBR, #4 prospect): 1 IP, H, 0 BB, K

Though just a single inning of work (extreme small sample size warning), Patiño’s pitch chart from Wednesday’s outing show positive developments to his fastball movement. In 2020 Patiño’s fastball had natural cut that significantly hampered his ability to get whiffs with it. This was an aspect I mentioned about Patiño in the Rays Top-50 list and something the Rays have prior success fixing. In his first outing of the spring, all but two of his FBs had less vertical movement than his 2020 average (12.1″). His horizontal movement is trending up as well, which to me indicates a conscious change, something more than just natural growth. Here’s to hoping Patiño makes a few more outings at statcast-equipped facilities this spring, as he battles for a starting role in 2021.

 

Other Highlights

Though we unfortunately can’t watch every spring training game on TV, here is an assortment of highlights from other prospects worth noting this week:

 

Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Natan Cristol-Deman

Natan is a California native and senior at UMass Amherst. He enjoys applying analytics to scouting and player development. You can find him on twitter @natan_cd

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