This week on Big Hype Prospects, we take a look at some precocious youngsters in the upper minors.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Edgar Quero, 19, C, LAA (A)
515 PA, 17 HR, 12 SB, .312/.435/.530
Recently selected as the Angels Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America, Quero has surged in the Angels system and likely ranks as their second-best farmhand behind Logan O’Hoppe. For what it’s worth, Baseball America’s midseason update has Quero behind O’Hoppe, Zach Neto, and Ky Bush, but it’s pretty clear to me that he’s since leapfrogged at least Bush.
Quero progressed considerably both offensively and defensively this season. He’s now viewed as likely to not only remain a catcher but to do so as a quality defender. As a hitter, he’s a consistent contact machine with advanced plate discipline for his age. He has a knack for finding gaps (35 doubles, two triples) and could grow into more home run power as he ages. For a 19-year-old with non-elite power (by scouting grade), hitting 17 dingers is a lovely platform. His 8.4 percent swinging strike rate is superior to most teenagers – even those that eventually go on to post high rates of contact. His 12 steals have come in 17 attempts, a sign he might not run much as he advances.
One tiny detail that will often be missed in surface-level analysis – Quero was hit by pitch 21 times. Among Major Leaguers, only Willson Contreras (23) has been hit by more than 20 pitches this season. While Quero’s OBP captures this trait, his walk rate does not. He’s listed as having a 14.2 percent walk rate and 17.7 percent strikeout rate. He actually has 94 walks plus hit-by-pitches compared to 91 strikeouts. It’s debatable whether this is a good trait for a minor leaguer since bean balls lead to injuries.
Evan Carter, 20, OF, TEX (AA)
(A+) 447 PA, 11 HR, 26 SB, .287/.388/.476
Carter, a second-round pick in the weird 2020 draft, was on track to jump onto Top 100 lists last season before a season-ending stress fracture in his back ended his campaign. While that may sound ominous, it’s a simple injury to maintain via core exercises. He spent the bulk of 2022 in High-A, earning a late-season promotion to Double-A in order to continue his season. Per Baseball America, he now ranks above Josh Jung as the Rangers top farm hand.
Carter is frequently praised for his swing decisions, but scouting reports often take time to focus on his weaknesses too. He has the size and physicality of a power hitter. His swing is thought to be prone to ground ball contact, though that didn’t show up in his incredibly balanced batted ball profile in High-A. He’s a capable center fielder whom multiple evaluators comp to Brandon Nimmo due to the discerning eye, a similar left-handed swing, and game power that is expected to underperform his stature. That said, the Rangers are sometimes criticized for asking their prospects to max out on power. Don’t sleep on the potential for 20-or-more homer upside once he’s in his 20s. His max exit velocity is already above the Major League average.
Gordon Graceffo, 22, SP, STL (AA)
(A+) 93.2 IP, 7.98 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 3.94 ERA
Graceffo opened 2022 in High-A. In eight starts (45.2 innings), he chewed through the level with a 0.99 ERA, 11.04 K/9, and 0.79 BB/9. He’s performed more ordinarily at Double-A. A 5.07 FIP suggests he’s even struggled a bit more than his ERA portends. He’s performed particularly well of late. In 16.2 innings this month, he’s allowed no runs, five hits, two walks, and two hit batters with 22 strikeouts. His latest start began with five perfect innings before he allowed a hit in the sixth. Unlike most pitching prospects in their second pro season, he’s carried a fairly substantial workload of 139.1 innings. For perspective, only 56 big leaguers have thrown more frames. He also rates 10th among minor leaguers.
He possesses a four-pitch repertoire of above-average offerings complemented with average or better command. In essence, this is the Zac Gallen starter kit. The FanGraphs report mentions the shape of his fastball plays down. Basically, it’s contact-prone and won’t necessarily limit the quality of said contact. This appears to be an organizational shortcoming with the Cardinals – whether by choice, happenstance, or some other reason.
Andrew Painter, 19, SP, PHI (AA)
24.1 IP, 11.84 K/9, 0.74 BB/9, 1.11 ERA
Painter is a candidate to claim the mantle of top minor league pitcher once Grayson Rodriguez matriculates. In a past episode of BHP, I compared Painter to Spencer Strider due to what might play as a two-pitch repertoire. Reports have since surfaced that he’s gained confidence in an improved changeup. I also failed to account for their difference in stature – Painter is seven inches taller which greatly affects the shape of his fastball.
While he hasn’t induced quite as many swinging strikes as Strider did through his ascent, Painter has shown better command and pitchability. Given his early success in Double-A following 17 dominant starts in A-ball, he could be on track to debut in 2023. It’s rare for pitchers to reach the Show in their age 20 season. In fact, the youngest pitchers in the Majors this season are 22, though Luis Patino was 20 when he debuted. He even set a season-high of 27 batters faced on September 3, more than most big leaguers face in a start.
Adael Amador, 19, SS, COL (A)
555 PA , 15 HR, 26 SB, .292/.415/.445
Similarly to Quero, Amador remained in Low-A all season where he was able to focus on making modest improvements without being overmatched. He’s seen as a high-probability shortstop prospect who recorded more walks than strikeouts, makes a ton of contact, and isn’t a complete zero in the power department. He hits too much pulled, ground ball contact, but he has plenty of time to make adjustments. Excellent plate discipline is an important and underrated ingredient when it comes to altering a young player’s batted ball profile. While some scouting reports suggest he’ll shift to second base down the line, my own interpretation is that this isn’t strictly necessary. Defensively, he might fit best as a first-division utility man capable of suiting up all over the diamond. Not to say that he’s similar to Chris Taylor, but that role would be an excellent use of Amador’s talents.
Jackson Chourio, MIL (18): Like Carter, Chourio earned a promotion to Double-A mostly in order to continue his season. Thus far, he’s just 1-for-11 with three walks and four strikeouts. He’s also just 18-and-a-half, eight months the junior of the next-youngest hitter at the level (see next). If he can salvage a strong finish, he might be on pace to arrive in the Majors as a teenager.
Deyvison De Los Santos, ARI (19): Another promotee for the purpose of extending his season, De Los Santos flashed through Low- and High-A this season while bashing 21 home runs and posting some gaudy BABIPs. Those helped to hide swing-and-miss issues with his approach that at times evokes Pedro Cerrano. Plate discipline remains an ongoing issue for the potent teenager.
Francisco Alvarez, NYM (20): Recently sidelined with a loose body in his ankle, Alvarez returned to action a few days ago. He launched a home run on Tuesday. The Mets have gotten next to no offense from their catchers and might be willing to take desperate measures as the Braves nip at their heels in the NL East race.
Tink Hence, STL (20): Profiled in detail last week, Hence made a third straight scoreless start. He even faced a career-high 16 batters. The Cardinals continue to carefully manage his innings this season, combining short starts with a full week between outings.
Chase Silseth, LAA (22): Though he’s made seven big league appearances spanning 28.2 innings (6.59 ERA), Silseth has yet to appear in Triple-A. The 22-year-old has pitched excellently in Double-A with a 2.28 ERA, 11.93 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, and a flashy 17.8 percent swinging strike rate. He delivered a six-inning scoreless outing on Thursday with nine strikeouts for the Rocket City Trash Pandas.