The Orioles are finally calling up one of their top hitting prospects, and it isn’t the one I expected to get the first call. Jordan Westburg will make his debut later today. I expected Colton Cowser to win the race to the Majors. With Cedric Mullins recently returning, Cowser is left to await another injury or Aaron Hicks’ inevitable collapse (good outcomes, deeply terrible EVs).
Five Big Hype Prospects
Jordan Westburg, 24, 2B/3B/SS, BAL (AAA)
301 PA, 18 HR, 6 SB, .295/.372/.567
There’s a disconnect between public perceptions of Westburg and scouting reports. The bat will play, though Westburg’s penchant to swing-and-miss could result in long slumps as reports identify exploitable weaknesses. His minor league exit velocities would rate as above average in the Majors. Additionally, Westburg seemingly mixes discipline and targeted aggression in a way that could help keep his strikeouts under control – it has thus far in the minors.
The trouble is his defense. He’s trained all over the infield. Some think he’ll eventually land in left field. We see these sorts of bat-first players all over the league. His flexibility enables the club to view him as a tenth man akin to Chris Taylor (to be clear, Taylor is a far superior fielder). When approaching roster construction, Westburg can be slotted into whatever spot needs filling or else rotate with the regulars to keep everyone fresh.
Luis Matos, 21, OF, SFG (MLB)
45 PA, 1 HR, 2 SB, .282/.378/.385
On the back of a mediocre AFL performance, it wasn’t guaranteed the Giants were going to roster Matos this year. He would have likely gone early in the Rule 5 draft if they hadn’t. Matos immediately rewarded San Francisco’s decision to protect him. Though discipline has long been a weakness, he has more walks than strikeouts through 45 plate appearances after hitting .398/.435/.685 in 116 Triple-A plate appearances. The 21-year-old has looked like a new hitter this year.
There are still worrying details under the surface. His 89.5-mph average and 107.5-mph max exit velocities suggest middling power. Given his age, he could easily grow into more power – several evaluators believe this will happen. It’s my expectation Matos will soon enter a slump due to poor quality of contact. However, I’m optimistic about the long-range picture. In addition to burgeoning hitting skills, Matos is a plus defensive center fielder.
Justin Crawford, 19, OF, PHI (A)
202 PA, 0 HR, 32 SB, .346/.395/.456
I was surprised to recently discover Crawford had crept onto Baseball America’s Top 100 list. That’s not meant as a knock against Crawford. There happens to be a large number of high-quality prospects around the league. Crawford is more projection than actuality at this stage of his development.
The 17th pick of the 2022 draft, Crawford was seen as the sort of toolsy, incomplete prospect the Phillies have historically loved – and struggled to develop. He’s performing decently in Low-A where his first-rate speed is on display. A .423 BABIP has allowed him to get away with too many swinging strikes for his current low-power profile. He’s expected to age into roughly average pop, so this problem could go away in a couple ways. Comparisons to his father, Carl Crawford, come naturally as they share quite a few traits. He’s reportedly comfortable making adjustments to his hitting mechanics which further increases the volatility of his prospectdom.
Carson Whisenhunt, 22, SP, SFG (AA)
(A/A+/AA) 49.2 IP, 12.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 2.90 ERA
Whisenhunt would rank higher among evaluators if not for off-field issues. As it is, he’s still in consideration for the back-end of Top 100 lists. The simplest issue to comment on publicly is his failed PED test in college. You’ll notice, it’s rare for college players to be caught for PEDs, and it’s not because they’re squeaky clean. For his part, Whisenhunt blames a tainted supplement. The skinny southpaw leads with a double-plus changeup and is only just reaching a level where hitters will have some capacity to cope with the pitch. His changeup is such that he won’t truly be tested until he reaches the Majors. The profile and build are reminiscent of Cole Hamels.
Roman Anthony, 19, OF, BOS (A+)
(A/A+) 251 PA, 5 HR, 12 SB, .236/.379/.382
Anyone statistically minded is going to like Anthony. A 19-year-old performing well in High-A is exciting stuff, particularly when said 19-year-old has a 171 wRC+ in 49 plate appearances. He was considerably more ordinary in Low-A, posting a 110 wRC+ in 202 plate appearances. A sweet-swinging lefty slugger, Anthony has considerable development ahead of him if he’s to continue this speedy race toward the Majors. The P-word gets thrown around. Against better competition, Anthony will find himself behind in the count all too often. Passivity isn’t a death knell. We saw Gunnar Henderson defeat it entering last season and again about a month ago. It’s a trait which has a way of echoing. But for the passivity, Anthony has all the traits of a starting corner outfielder.
FanGraphs gives Anthony a four-paragraph writeup that says more than I can in this space.
Edouard Julien, MIN (24): The star of the 2022 AFL, Julien is on the verge of losing his prospect “eligibility.” He’s batting .252/.336/.439 through 123 plate appearances. A 34.1 percent strikeout rate has held him back. He also has a 12.5 percent swinging strike rate – nearly double that of his Triple-A performance. Defensively limited, Julien appears in need of an adjustment or two. He has the tools to pull it off.
Jacob Misiorowski, MIL (21): It’s good to be unique as a pitcher. Misiorowski certainly checks the “unique” box. The 6’7’’ right-hander has the sort of funky arm action that makes it hard to identify balls and strikes. Misiorowski lacks a changeup, but we’ve seen plenty of starters succeed without one in recent years, especially those who can live up in the zone with hard heat. He currently has poor command.
Quinn Priester, PIT (22): Priester has been on the radar for a while, bouncing in and out of the Top 100 prospects. He’s a ground ball pitcher who manages around a strikeout per inning while limiting walks and piling up ground balls. Since his fastball isn’t particularly effective, he should be viewed as a potential back-of-the-rotation guy – the type who keeps his team in the game.
Did I miss a detail or nuance? DM me on Twitter @BaseballATeam to suggest corrections.