We’re fast approaching the eve of Opening Day. The likes of Jordan Walker, Anthony Volpe, and Brett Baty continue to be among the most prominent prospect storylines. However, this column has covered them extensively over the long winter. It’s time we looked at some fresh(er) faces as we await Opening Day.
Five BHPs In The News
Alec Burleson, 24, OF, STL (MLB)
(AAA) 470 PA, 20 HR, 4 SB, .331/.372/.532
Walker’s ascension is overshadowing Burleson, who managed to snag a bench role and possibly a share of the designated hitter reps. The left-hander scalded Triple-A pitching before producing mixed results in 53 Major League plate appearances. Although his triple-slash of .188/.264/.271 can only be described as poor, underlying metrics suggest he was unlucky. In particular, his exit velocities, barreled, and hard contact rates all checked in as above average. He produced a .211 BABIP despite a batted-ball profile associated with high-BABIP hitters. An aggressive hitter, Burleson nevertheless has an advanced approach which helps him to make quality contact and avoid strikeouts. It’s difficult to avoid comparisons to teammate Lars Nootbaar who has a similar but more disciplined offensive profile.
Luis Ortiz, 24, SP, PIT (MLB)
(AA) 114.1 IP, 9.92 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, 4.64 ERA
Ortiz experienced a breakthrough last season, leading to his ascension for a brief four-game cup of tea. He posted a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings while dazzling with a 98.5-mph heater. He’s back in the mix for an Opening Day role due to an injury to JT Brubaker. Ortiz throws standard and sinking fastballs as well as a double-plus slider. Though he doesn’t have an alternate offspeed weapon – his changeup is more of “show me” offering – such starters are increasingly common around the league. Typically, they only face the lineup twice. Should he eventually land in the bullpen, he profiles as a stopper or closer.
Grayson Rodriguez, 23, SP, BAL (AAA)
(AAA) 69.2 IP, 12.53 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 2.20 ERA
The Orioles front office has been unusually candid about Rodriguez dating back to last season. He suffered a lat injury on what many believe was intended as his final minor league appearance. While he recovered, GM Mike Elias commented about his belief Rodriguez would appear on the Orioles’ Opening Day roster in 2023 – comments he doubled down upon over the offseason. Ominously, Rodriguez didn’t look like himself after returning from injury. Though he continued to reap strikeouts (29) in 19 2/3 September innings, he also issued 14 free passes. He performed similarly this spring. In 15 1/3 innings, he recorded 19 strikeouts, seven walks, and a hit batter. He was also roughed up for three home runs. Once again, Elias was candid, saying “we were hoping that he would show up as a better version of himself.” Rodriguez still profiles as a future rotation member. His initial response to the lat injury has now cast a small sliver of doubt on his ability to reach an ace-like ceiling.
Mason Miller, 24, SP, OAK (AAA)
(AAA) 5 IP, 12.60 K/9, 1.80 BB/9, 5.40 ERA
That’s no typo, Miller pitched five innings at Triple-A after a seven-inning showing in High-A and two frames in the complex. He also collected six innings of work in 2021. Injuries have marred Miller’s early career. Finally healthy last fall and this spring, he impressed Athletics evaluators. He’s now on track to debut this season. Miller pumps upper-90s heat at the top of the zone. He also features a plus slider and has shown a quality changeup. He can locate both offerings to specific spots but doesn’t yet have command of the entire zone. While the stuff and repertoire suggest a future as a starter, the injury history could convince the Athletics to try him in the bullpen. He profiles as a top-tier fireman.
Ezequiel Tovar, 21, SS, COL (MLB)
(AA) 295 PA, 13 HR, 17 SB, .318/.386/.545
A solid Spring Training at the plate — .308/.368/.462 in 52 plate appearances — has all but assured Tovar’s presence on the Rockies Opening Day roster. An able defender who could challenge for Gold Gloves, Tovar’s bat will determine whether he’s a future star or simply a quality Major Leaguer. The young shortstop has shown exceptional athletic ability. However, underlying peripherals suggest there could be a rough adjustment period ahead. Tovar hasn’t developed much plate discipline. His swinging-strike rate is high for an aggressive contact hitter. He could find himself frequently behind in the count. Coors Field represents a unique developmental challenge for a hitter who would probably benefit from a more consistent offensive environment.
Jared Shuster, ATL (24): Shuster is a soft-tossing southpaw who relies upon command and a plus changeup. He shouldered past the likes of Ian Anderson, Michael Soroka, and Bryce Elder to claim a spot in the Braves’ Opening Day rotation.
Dylan Dodd, ATL (24): Dodd has marched in lockstep with Shuster all spring. They’re remarkably similar pitchers. Another southpaw with a changeup-led repertoire and a command-over-stuff profile, Dodd is even of a similar size and shape to Shuster. Since Kyle Wright is behind schedule, both Dodd and Shuster will make their debuts next week.
Hayden Wesneski, CHC (25): The return in the Scott Effross trade with the Yankees, Wesneski has staked a claim to the fifth starter role. His command of a deep repertoire and overall feel for pitching promises a long and lasting career in the Majors.
Burleson blisters the baseball. Man, he hits the ball so hard. Expect good things from him as he progresses…
Carlson, O’Niell, Nootbat, Walker and Burleson: so who’s not playing?
Who doesn’t play? Whoever is slumping.
Just seems odd that you would keep both Walker and Burleson unless they were both going to play everyday. But that means that one of the other 3 will not. Someone injured?
No one is injured. None of them have anything more to prove in the minors. Burleson is a great left handed bat off the bench. The other four will likely be a rotation giving everyone plenty of rest.
They also used Burleson as the backup at 1st in spring training.
Just tryin go to double their chances of getting a comp pick next year for ROY.
At some point all of them. The Cardinals are throwing darts blindly at the outfield/DH spot. They are hoping for that some mix of Walker, O’Niel, Nootbar, Carlson, Burleson, Yepez, Edmon, Gomez, and Gorman ends up working out. It’s like the saying “if you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” Good thing they get to beat up on the Reds and Pirates to help the win/loss record.
Fangraphs had an article today that highlighted some results of the new incentive-laden rules on prospect service time manipulation. What particularly struck me was that teams with multiple top prospects only started their best prospect OD. The second usually was delayed at least until before May 31st. For example, the Mariners had Julio Rodriguez OD while Kirby was called up in early May. Following this example, this is a path that I see the Orioles following with Henderson and Rodriguez. I don’t know how much service time manipulation teams benefit from delaying prospects by a little more than a month. But since there may be a trend, there must be something of value pursuing this path against prospects.
The same thing with the Cardinals. Winn was every bit as impressive as Walker this spring. He’ll be back this summer.
@cardsfan57 while i agree winn was impressive his problem is who was he playing over, edman, donavan, and gorman had good springs. yes winn deserves to be on the roster but it does him no good for him to just sit and play maybe 2 days a week. unless someone gets hurt i don’t see winn coming up until after the deadline where the cards might make a move for pitching
Interesting points. I think sometimes pitcher’s get held down initially to limit the workload as the season progresses.
In terms of Ortiz’s change-up’s movement, active spin, and velocity, there are a lot of similarities between his off-speed pitch and Rafael Montero’s change. That’s simpilying it, but I think his change-up is slept on by many. He has exceptional command for a young guy with the kind of power arm he has. His ERA last year in the minors is a little deceiving. He got a ton of strikeouts, limited walks, and was hurt by the long ball because of a HR/FB ratio of 17%. He induced ground balls over 48% of the time in the minor leagues last season, and when he made his debut, held opponents to an exit velocity of 86.1 MPH. Baseball Savant is also in love with Ortiz. They compare him to Luis Castillo, Gerrit Cole, and Sandy Alcantara, based on movement and velocity (again, that’s simplifying it, but still promising nonetheless).
It’s humorous to see Cole’s name here. Too often, his idea was to simply muscle the ball past hitters. Ironic that he learned to become a pitcher after leaving town
That said, the article above puts forth the idea of making Ortiz a reliever. Jeez. I hope that never happens
If Ortiz were to post 2022 Gerrit Cole numbers (the specific year that they compare him to), I’ll take that 100% of the time. You don’t become one of baseball’s top pitchers by being a thrower. But I agree that Ortiz is too talented to be a reliever.
You missed my point, mlb All he was indeed was a thrower in Pittsburgh, and one who was almost predictable in throwing to the outside corner for strikes the majority of the time. He learned spin pitch effectiveness in Houston.
As did Charlie Morton
Even though he is now looked upon as baseball deity, I remember Nolan Ryan quite well. Yeah, he threw hard. And he’s a lifetime .500 pitcher.
Agree 100% about spin and off speed pitches
Tovar is certainly an unfinished product. He is also a plus runner with an aggressive approach and plus bat speed. Those are all perfect ingredients for piles and piles of extra base hits in a park like Coors field.
I think Coors field is potentially an ideal environment for a player with Tovar’s profile, provided he isn’t pushed to “sell out for power.”
Luis Ortiz is 27, not 24.
Ortiz is 24, the link is not to the right guy. They meant to put a link to this guy https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/o/ortizlu03.shtml
Lol yeah some brief innings after returning from injury and a handful of spring innings have really made GRod look bad. Give me a break.
Agreed. He made some AAA starts at the end of last year after the injury and was excellent. This was just a bad few starts where he didn’t look like himself, and they clearly see something that says he’s not ready yet. It’s disappointing, but I don’t think anyone could say with a straight face that any doubt is cast on his future.
Ortiz should be in the rotation sooner than later. with JT doing down for a bit the door is open.
OT: i’m saddened by Mason Martin’s lousy performance in 2022. something happened between 2021 and 2022. Did he change his approach or is the AAA competition too much? Wish he would’ve gotten more time in spring. His power is pretty great. looked like he was coming out of it in the 2nd half last year. 2023 is his make or break season if the pirate choose to carry him in a wait and see plan. But Nunez may push him out if he isn’t playing 3rd.
Cards depth is enviable, but it’s seems like and uphill battle to get everyone ABs. Interesting that they have so many L bats
Bounty Hunters IA
Wesneski may be the 5th starter now but by the end of the season he will be the ace of the staff, at least until Jordan Wicks arrives in 2024. Cubs pitching depth is in great shape and will keep improving once Wicks, Herz, Brown, Palencia and many others make their debut in the Show late this year or early next year, followed by Horton and Ferris in 2025.
Might be more appropriate to say Shuster hamstringed past Soroka (not shouldered), since Soroka’s injury is what opened the door for Shuster/Dodd this spring. We”ll see what happens once Soroka and Wright both are back in action.