We missed a week while I was on the injured list (back spasms sustained while diving back to first base). There’s much for us to cover. Let’s start with some high-profile Padres. While the draft is tempting, let’s look in on those guys as they sign.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Ethan Salas, 17, C, SDP (A)
139 PA, 6 HR, 5 SB, .259/.381/.500
When we adjourned two weeks ago, Salas was batting .208/.340/.286 in 94 plate appearances. An 82 wRC+ isn’t anything to sniff at when we’re talking about a guy who’s 17-and-one-month old playing in full-season ball. Over the last two weeks, Salas hit .371/.467/.971. Including a HBP, he has as many free passes as strikeouts during the span. Of his 13 hits, he bopped five homers, four doubles, and a triple. That adds up to a 240 wRC+ for the hot streak and a 133 wRC+ on the season. If he keeps this up for long, he’ll find himself playing against High-A competition before the season ends. He’s “on pace” to debut as a teenager – a feat he can accomplish as long as he reaches the Majors before June 1, 2026.
Jackson Merrill, 20, SS, SDP (A+)
300 PA, 10 HR, 10 SB, .280/.318/.444
Salas’ future teammate had to grind through a rough April before turning a corner. The Midwest League is a difficult hitting environment. His first month of play consisted of a .188/.247/.338 performance. In the three months since then, he’s hit .317/.348/.487 while making steady improvements. Lately, he’s found a power stroke. Since June 14, he’s hit six of his 10 home runs. Merrill isn’t expected to be much of a power hitter. His carrying trait is an advanced feel for contact. He rarely meets a pitch with which he can’t connect. His discipline lags a bit, though it’s not as if he’s Javy Baez. An unsubstantiated theory of mine is that his early-season slump was the result of contacting too many pitches outside of the zone. The theory fits what data I have available, though I haven’t discussed it with anybody who would actually know.
Nick Yorke, 2B, 21, BOS (AA)
316 PA, 9 HR, 6 SB, .275/.361/.453
Folks weren’t sure what to make of Yorke’s forgettable 2022 campaign. The industry had a little chuckle when the Red Sox “reached” for Yorke in the first round of the 2020 draft. After a superb 2021 season, everyone adjusted expectations. Then 2022 happened. Some evaluators stuck with their updated outlook and blamed injuries. Others pointed to his subpar defense and wrote him off.
Yorke has rebounded this season – perhaps not enough to make up for his defensive shortcomings. His current 122 wRC+ depends upon a .353 BABIP. He also has 13.0 percent swinging strike and 25.0 percent strikeout rates. Historically, prospects with similar statistical performances have been prone to stalling out in the Quad-A bucket. For now, we should view Yorke’s rebound as a positive development. Perhaps more distance from his injury-riddled 2022 will lead to improvements in his quality or rate of contact.
Tink Hence, 20, SP, STL (AA)
(A+) 41.2 IP, 9.94 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 2.81 ERA
Hence received a promotion to Double-A at the beginning of July. He also picked up a hold in the Futures Game. The pitching-needy Cardinals surely hope Hence can remain in the rotation. Alas, though he doesn’t walk many hitters, he’s not known for sharp command. His breaking ball is a weapon. It’s expected he should join the many pitchers who have mastered manipulating breaking ball spin for different effects. He doesn’t have a consistent changeup. Taken with the errant fastball command and history of brief outings, the relief risk is palpable. That said, Hence has yet to meet a challenge he hasn’t mastered. His Double-A debut was the first appearance of his career in which he faced more than 20 batters (22).
Coby Mayo, 21, 3B, BAL (AA)
347 PA, 17 HR, 4 SB, .307/.424/.603
With a 176 wRC+ on the season, Mayo is one of the top qualified hitters in the minors. He’ll play his next game in Triple-A, ending a nearly 500-plate appearance stint in Double-A. Mayo has traits grounded in the 2019 juiced ball era. He’s a pull-oriented slugger who generates plenty of loft. As a right-handed hitter, he’s not an ideal fit for Camden Yards. However, his power is such that he could overcome the home field limitations. It will be interesting to see if Mayo can continue to run elevated BABIPs into the Majors as this is a hitting profile typically associated with low BABIPs. Hypothetically, if a franchise-altering talent is made available at the trade deadline, Mayo would go a long way toward securing a deal. They’ll eventually have to trade somebody they like.
Johan Rojas, PHI (22): The Phillies are angling to get Kyle Schwarber into the DH slot. The plan would involve Cristian Pache in center and Brandon Marsh in left. If Pache doesn’t work out, Rojas has a similar reputation as a superlative defender who might hit enough to create a lot of value. In 354 Double-A plate appearances, Rojas is batting .306/.361/.484 with nine homers and 30 steals. He’s on the 40-man roster.
River Ryan, LAD (24): The latest pitcher to pop in the Dodgers system, Ryan features a promising four-pitch repertoire. In the month of June, he tossed two five-inning no-hitters. His command hasn’t been particularly sharp. Even across those two no-nos, Ryan issued four walks and hit three batters. It’s thought he’ll eventually develop better command. If not, he has a relief floor.
Ignacio Alvarez, ATL (20): A ripped shortstop who recently turned 20, Alvarez evokes Yandy Diaz right down to the comical biceps, low-angle contact, discipline, and rare whiffs. The comparison is hard to avoid. He might just be the next Brave to skip the line to the Majors. He generally keeps the ball on the ground with an all-fields approach. He’s expected to eventually move to third base, though he remains passable at shortstop for now.
Did I miss a detail or nuance? DM me on Twitter @BaseballATeam to suggest corrections.