Winds of Change: High-A Prospect Monthly Roundup
It was a busy and exciting month of change across the High-A landscape in June, with top talents such as Alec Bohm moving on to Double-A, while new arrivals, led by super prospect Wander Franco, entered with a bang. And of course, it wouldn’t be minor league baseball without a few unheralded names rising through the ranks. Here’s a look at just some of the players worthy of mention this past month.
MacKenzie Gore is basically the king of California. The talented lefty has utterly dominated the Cal league, with a miniscule 1.02 ERA, 0.71 WHIP and an eye-popping 38.2% K-rate through 79.1 innings. While he’s still only 20 years old, I expect the Padres’ top pitching prospect (and arguably baseball’s top pitching prospect) to notch at least a few starts at Double-A before the season is over.
With the Padres’ system absolutely stacked, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Gore’s batterymate Luis Campusano is doing his best to stand out. At the start of July, the promising catcher ranked first in the Cal League in hitting (.329), second in OBP (.400), fourth in slugging (.521) and second in OPS (.921). Similarly, Rockies’ first base prospect Luis Castro won’t appear high up (or at all) on rankings lists but he just keeps hitting (.297/.421/.564 on the season) and his 18 HR and 62 RBI lead the league. He’s a bit old for the level at 23, so look for the Rockies to challenge him with tougher competition in the near future.
Jeter Downs, one of the key returns for the Dodgers in the Yasiel Puig trade, enjoyed another steady month of production at Rancho Cucamonga, hitting .278 with seven home runs, seven steals and 21 RBI across 24 games. His defense at shortstop is a tad iffy though; his 15 errors are the fourth most in the Cal League this season.
Florida State League
So many Marlins’ starters excelled at Jupiter last month (Braxton Garrett and Edward Cabrera say hi) it’s hard to pick just one, but LHP Trevor Rogers is coming off three consecutive scoreless outings to conclude an impressive June where he posted a 1.09 ERA with 32 Ks in 24.2 IP. The 13th overall pick in the 2017 draft, Rogers will probably always be overshadowed by more exciting arms (which is saying a lot given that his 6-foot-6 frame is hardly forgettable) but it’s nice to see a bounce back after he put up a disappointing 5.82 ERA in Single-A last year.
After pitching solely out of the pen in 2018, Tarik Skubal (DET) is finding his groove as a starter this season, posting a stellar 30.3% K-rate across 80.1 innings. His 97 Ks lead the Florida State League, thanks to a solid fastball that can touch 95, complimented by a curve, slider and developing change-up. The 6-foot-3 lefty should shoot up the Tigers’ prospect charts as he was a relatively forgotten man after returning from Tommy John surgery last year.
Offensively, Twins’ OF prospect Trevor Larnach cooled off a bit in June (.304/.360/.424), but that’s only because his May was out of this world (.371/.456/.619). While his five home runs are underwhelming, his 25 doubles suggest there is plenty of power lurking in the bat. I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds his way to Double-A before the summer is over.
Meanwhile, two other top picks from the 2018 draft are still searching for consistency. Third base prospect Jonathan India (CIN) is getting on base at a decent clip (.347 OBP) but he has just a .761 OPS on the year. And OF Travis Swaggerty (PIT) isn’t faring any better; he hit just .172 for Bradenton in June, leaving him with a lackluster .650 OPS overall.
The Orioles’ LHP DL Hall lost his command in June (16 walks in 13.2 IP) but he still leads the league with 80 strikeouts. He’ll have to work on reducing the free passes as his ugly 7.04 BB/9 mark for the season means he’ll likely remain in High-A awhile longer.
Indians’ 3B prospect Nolan Jones continues to chug along. His counting stats never seem to jump off the page (6 HR, 38 RBI in 74 games) yet he’s an on-base machine with a 20.3% walk rate and .437 OBP, which leads all active players in the Carolina league. It’s a little odd the power hasn’t developed; in 104 games across two stints at High-A now, he’s clubbed only nine home runs. Still, I’d expect a promotion for the 21-year-old at some point in 2019.
Wander Franco has arrived. The Rays’ talented 18-year-old shortstop, who is widely considered the new no. 1 prospect in baseball, was promoted to High-A Charlotte on June 24 and promptly collected 10 hits in his first 18 ABs, including two home runs. It would have been fun to see him play alongside fellow prospect and second baseman Vidal Brujan, but the Rays’ potential double-play tandem of the future only spent two games together before Brujan’s promotion to Double-A whisked him away.
Lastly, Cubs’ catching prospect Miguel Amaya continues to struggle at the plate and owns just a .208 average on the season. If there’s a silver lining, his 13.9% walk rate shows promise, and his strikeout rate is under 20% as well. I expect he’ll stay with Myrtle Beach for the remainder of this year as he’s still just 20 years old.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)