With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida), identifying the next prospect breakout can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a prospect may get too much coverage and no longer be available. You can scout stat lines all year, but that can be tedious, and it’s difficult to keep an eye on every tweet and post. We may have renamed this column but fear not, intrepid dynasty league manager, this is still THE place to find your potential prospect diamonds in the rough.
For those unfamiliar, this is a weekly column where I’ll select four prospects (typically 2 hitters and 2 pitchers) who performed outstandingly in the prior week. Not only will you get a name, but also we’ll dive into what powered their results and where their future value stands. “But,” you may think to yourself, “what makes this column so different than any of the countless other blurbs, rundowns, and general prospect lists that are published?” Glad you asked!
First and foremost, this column is dedicated to the deep dynasty manager. If you’re in a 18 team league, or rostering 30+ minor leaguers, then this is your spot.
Secondly, and I don’t want to honk my horn (toot toot) but in year 1, we had a pretty solid track record of recognizing some names that have risen in value entering this season including: Kyle Manzardo, Yainer Diaz, Evan Carter, Justin Dirden, and Will Benson.
With that said, let’s get to this week’s prospects…
Player of the Week: OF Alberto Rodriguez, SEA, High A
Stats: (7 games) 11-28, 6 HR, 3 doubles, 13 RBI, 8 runs, 0 SBs
Similar to the Cleveland Guardians and middle infield prospects or the Dodgers and, well, just about any type of prospect, the Seattle Mariners have found a magic formula with their minor league outfielders. Even after making exceptions for the ever-present talent of Julio Rodríguez and the hype of Jarred Kelenic, the Mariners have the likes of Cade Marlowe, Zach DeLoach, and the skyrocketing Jonathan Clase (see previous Watchlist articles.) You can add Alberto Rodriguez to the list, as the High-A right fielder is coming off his best week of the season, where he hit at least one homer in 5 straight games, including one in each end of a double-header to close out the week.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 28, 2023
Rodriguez’s power isn’t anything new; he hit 10 HRs each of the past two seasons between Low and High A, along with 25+ doubles in each of those years. The question marks were more in how well his pitch recognition would adjust to breaking balls and if he’d continue to make consistent contact. The answer so far has been yes, Rodriguez has hung in against spin and has posted an overall contact rate of 75.5%, which is the highest of his career since his rookie league days. The most encouraging number, though, might be the 1.124 OPS that he’s sporting in 40 PAs vs. LHP. Rodriguez is pretty filled out already and his arm is strong enough to keep him in right, but any additional weight or loss of foot speed could result in him being moved to left field or possibly first base. His swing mechanics are a bit unconventional; his bottom half has more movement than you’d typically see from someone his build, a pronounced leg kick that angles his right leg out at almost a 90 degree angle before planting. His hands remain quite low, sometimes even dropping into a pump action as Rodriguez begins his swing. But he’s shown tremendous timing and the ability to get the barrel where it needs to be in the zone. Rodriguez should see significant time in AA to finish his 2023, and could push his value from essentially unranked into a top 200 range.
Honorable Mention: SS Ryan Ritter, COL, Low A
Stats: (x games) 9-27, 4 HR, 1 double, 9 RBI, 5 runs, 0 SBs
Ritter likely will never make big leaps in prospect rankings and his upside is probably a 120-ish wRC+ everyday SS. But he’s the type of prospect I like to have on my long list of guys to monitor. Why? He’s a defensive whiz who’s showing the ability to hit for some significant power. At the premium position of shortstop, any player that has the range and arm that Ritter’s shown from his days at Kentucky until now who also has double digit potential for HRs will always make their way to the majors.
As a 22 year old collegiate bat at Low A, there could be some concern that he’s taking advantage of younger arms but it’s nice to see 7 of his 11 homers have come against pitchers 22 or older, according to BBRef. Keep an eye on Ritter especially once he gets promoted to High A.
Pitcher of the Week: SP Cory Lewis, MIN, Low A
Stats: (2 starts) 9 IP, 4 ER, 8 hits, 4 BB, 15 Ks
Lewis made his debut on The Watchlist last week as an Honorable Mention, but he’s kept up his output, so I’m rewarding him with the top spot this week. I discussed his repertoire, including a true knee bender of a knuckleball, but here it is in action.
⚠️COMBINED NO HITTER⚠️
Cory Lewis, A.J. Labas, Gabriel Yanez, and Ben Ethridge combine for a Mother's Day no-hitter as Fort Myers completes the sweep👏
Lewis: 5.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 7 K
Labas: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Yanez: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K
Ethridge: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 K pic.twitter.com/rd7NdbEcwA
— Twins Player Development (@TwinsPlayerDev) May 14, 2023
The question will remain how Lewis’ fastball plays with his knuckleball as the year progresses. I don’t know the Twins’ system extremely well, but I’m assuming that they’re in no rush to move Lewis up. That means we should get an entire season of seeing him in Low A.
Honorable Mention: SP Connor Phillips, CIN, AA
Stats: (2 starts) 9 IP, 3 ER, 9 hits, 4 BB, 19 Ks
A Reds pitcher that’s not Andrew Abbott, Phillips came to Cincy from Seattle as the player to be named later in the Eugenio Suárez/Jesse Winker deal. Similar to Abbott, Phillips’ major obstacle to reaching his potential has been consistency around the plate. He’s yet to run a walk rate under 11% despite some gaudy strikeout numbers in his previous full seasons.
This year, Phillips started at AA (where he finished 2022) and has seen that walk rate come close to finally getting under 11% while his SwStr is at 16%, an indicator of his whiff-inducing fastball and curveball. Is there a Southern League boost due to the pre-tacked ball? Abbott’s breakout has continued at AAA Louisville, but time will tell if Phillips has the same type of carryover success.