This week, we check in on a number of prospects already in the Majors or on the cusp of promotion.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Spencer Torkelson, 22, 1B, DET (MLB)
144 PA, 4 HR, .179/.292/.309
Those hoping Torkelson would be the next great prospect debut have been sorely disappointed. Yet, lurking below his ugly surface level stats are promising peripherals. Tork has displayed above average plate discipline and is especially resistant to swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. He’s still struggled with strikeouts (28.5% K%), but there’s reason for optimism on that front. Since his 10.2 percent swinging strike rate is relatively tame, he should trim his strikeouts as he adjusts to the league. His primary scouting attributes – an above average hit tool backed by double-plus power – await an aha moment.
A week ago, a demotion to Triple-A looked increasingly likely. However, he’s now hit .265/.333/.441 over his last 39 plate appearances with three doubles, a homer, a 10.3 percent walk rate, and a 15.4 percent strikeout rate. The not-quite-hot-streak is sufficient cause for optimism, especially for a 16-28 Tigers club.
Jarren Duran, 25, OF, BOS (AAA)
142 PA, 4 HR, 10 SB, .315/.387/.543
Duran admitted to trying to do too much in the power department last year when he hit .215/.241/.336 in 112 big-league plate appearances. Thus far, he’s played just one game in the Majors this season. We’ll see him for more soon since he’s slaying Triple-A pitching and stands to considerably upgrade a 21-23 Red Sox roster.
Duran has returned to a line drive-oriented approach which might limit his ceiling but should also improve his floor. His batted ball profile is associated with high-BABIPs. Red Sox starting right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t bringing anything with the bat (.213/.275/.331). He might be better deployed as a backup or defensive replacement.
Grayson Rodriguez, 22, SP, BAL (AAA)
43.1 IP, 13.71 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 2.70 ERA
The Orioles have a doubleheader tomorrow. Jordan Lyles is set to start one half with the other belonging to a mystery pitcher. Baltimore has several options including Rodriguez. He’s due to start tonight so we’ll likely know by 7:05pm ET if he’ll get the call.
Since appearing in the column last week, Rodriguez had a six-inning, nine-strikeout start. He allowed two runs on four hits and a walk. It marked the second consecutive start in which he faced 23 batters. That’s a fairly typical workload for a young Major League pitcher so it does appear he’s cleared all obvious development hurdles.
Vinnie Pasquantino, 24, 1B, KC (AAA)
182 PA, 12 HR, 3 SB, .296/.396/.638
If the 15-28 Royals intend to salvage their season, they don’t have any time left to pull their punches. The club is currently using Hunter Dozier and Carlos Santana between first base and designated hitter. Dozier is having a solid if unspectacular rebound season. Santana, despite again managing more walks than strikeouts, hasn’t brought any thump to the plate. Pasquantino, a lefty slugger, has comparable walk and strikeout rates to Santana, but he supports them with a fly ball-oriented swing and a high rate of contact. Had he arrived during the 2019 season, he’d be an instant threat to swat a 50-homer pace. Since his raw power doesn’t stand out, there’s risk he’ll run a low BABIP due to too many easy fly outs. I’m reminded Rhys Hoskins in his age 24 season (2017). Perhaps we’ll see the same homer binge too!
Juan Yepez, 24, 1B/OF, STL (MLB)
86 PA, 4 HR, .273/.337/.468
Yepez wasn’t a highly celebrated prospect until his excellent 2021 campaign. Even that performance drew lukewarm plaudits due to the lack of quality pitching in the upper-minors last season. Yepez delivered more power in Triple-A this April, popping nine home runs in 93 plate appearances. He’s followed up with four dingers in the Majors. An aggressive batter, Yepez has the makings of an above average offensive player who lacks a stable defensive home. The Cardinals are currently trying him in the outfield corners and first base. Since Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson are sidelined, there’s plenty of room to play mix and match. When they return, St. Louis and Yepez will have to reckon with a roster crunch.
Bryson Stott (24): Shortstop Didi Gregorius is slowly working his way back from a knee injury. This was an excellent opportunity for Stott to claim the starting role, but he’s hitting just .108/.195/.108 in his second stint with the club. Strikeouts have plagued him all season, even in Triple-A. A second demotion looms if he doesn’t awaken immediately.
Nolan Gorman (22): When he was promoted last week, I figured Gorman would either struggle to make contact or succeed via home runs. Instead, he produced loud contact but didn’t clear a fence. His .263/.364/.368 batting line through 22 plate appearances is safely above average, but it relied upon a .417 BABIP. Whiffs could still sink him – his 31.8 percent strikeout rate and 17.7 percent swinging strike rate would rate among the 10-worst qualified hitters.
JP Sears (26): Among pitchers with at least 20 innings, Sears leads Triple-A with a 35.9 percent strikeout-minus-walk rate (K%-BB%). On Wednesday, he tossed five strong innings against the Baltimore Orioles. Sears largely leans on a fastball-slider combo which tends to indicate a future in the bullpen.
Kyle Muller (24): A former second-round pick, Muller hasn’t yet successfully transitioned to the Majors. He walked the world in his lone big-league start this season. In the minors, he’s posted a fine 3.68 ERA backed by a lovely 12.03 K/9 and 3.44 BB/9. Scouts have noted his fastball command tends to be transient.
Jordan Groshans (22): Since arriving in Triple-A, Groshans has recorded twice as many walks as strikeouts in 78 plate appearances. Although he’s yet to homer, his .381/.474/.429 triple-slash is plenty lovely. He’s a line drive machine who could reinforce the Blue Jays later this season. Scouts expect him to slide to third base.