This week on Big Hype Prospects, we’ll take a closer look at high-profile youngsters pushing for an Opening Day assignment.
Five BHPs In The News
Jordan Walker, 20, OF, STL (AA)
536 PA, 19 HR, 22 SB, .306/.388/.510
This column has nothing new to say about Walker. He is in the midst of a bid to skip Triple-A entirely and oust one of Tyler O’Neill or Dylan Carlson in the process. Playing time for Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman could also be negatively affected by Walker’s imminent debut. Through 54 spring plate appearances, Walker is batting .340/.352/.604 against a mix of competition. If there’s a fly in the ointment, it’s his singular walk. Then again, Walker is in camp to impress with his bat, not to work free passes. Those can come later. Of his 18 hits, eight have gone for extra bases including three home runs.
Anthony Volpe, 21, SS, NYY (AAA)
(AA) 497 PA, 18 HR, 44 SB, .251/.348/.472
Like Walker, Volpe is wearing out his welcome in BHP. The young shortstop is batting .297/.422/.568 with two home runs and four doubles in 44 plate appearances. The Yankees have a number of awkward roster decisions to make. Volpe’s success only adds to the pressure. Do they embrace the youth movement with Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Oswaldo Cabrera or hand the keys to veterans like Aaron Hicks, Rafael Ortega, Willie Calhoun, and Josh Donaldson one more time? Of course, there’s a middle ground – pick the best option between Volpe and Peraza for shortstop, option the other, and juggle as many of the others as possible until Harrison Bader can return. The “safe” play lies in retaining as many assets as possible. A bolder course might be necessary in a tough AL East.
Brett Baty, 23, 3B, NYM (MLB)
(AA) 394 PA, 19 HR, 2 SB, .312/.406/.544
Continuing a theme, past episodes contain (and then repeat) all of the analysis and scouting notes I have on Baty. He’s batting .351/.478/.459 in 44 plate appearances. Of modest concern, he’s hit for extra bases just twice out of 13 hits. He also has a 27.27 percent strikeout rate. Baty doesn’t profile for the superstar ceilings enjoyed by Walker and Volpe. His ground ball-oriented swing limits his offensive potential. There’s only so much he can do to lift the ball without entirely reworking his mechanics. Despite this shortcoming and inconsistent defense, Baty profiles as a high-probability, above-average regular. His main competition, Eduardo Escobar, is batting .125/.222/.347 in 16 spring at bats. He also went 1-for-10 with a home run at the World Baseball Classic.
Vaughn Grissom, 22, SS, ATL (MLB)
(MLB) 156 PA, 5 HR, 5 SB, .291/.353/.440
The first draft of this writeup was penned before the Braves optioned Grissom or Shewmake. Grissom spent much of the 2022 season in High-A and skipped Triple-A entirely en route to a splashy debut as the Braves second baseman. He faded down the stretch and vanished in the postseason. The presumptive favorite for the shortstop job for much of the offseason, the Braves went out of their way to tout Braden Shewmake in the last week before pivoting to veteran options. Thing is, Grissom performed well this spring. In 37 plate appearances, he batted .371/.400/.429 with only four strikeouts. Reports on his defense have been positive, though he spent more time at second base recently. While he didn’t hit for much power, he looked as if he belonged in Atlanta. Presumably, he’ll continue to work on his defense in Triple-A.
Hunter Brown, 24, SP, HOU (MLB)
(AAA) 106 IP, 11.38 K/9, 3.82 BB/9, 2.55 ERA
Brown has been favored to win a job since the moment Lance McCullers Jr. suffered an elbow strain. Spring stats for pitchers tend to be extra difficult to evaluate since so much of their work happens on back fields and in side sessions. In four recorded games, Brown has 10 strikeouts in nine innings. He’s also allowed only five hits. That’s where the good news ends. Brown has also coughed up six runs (five earned) thanks to five walks and a hit batter. Command has long been the weakest aspect of his game. There’s still relief risk if he continues to miss spots. The overall vibe resembles Red Sox ‘tweener Tanner Houck – a repertoire of plus offerings, a ton of ground balls, a below-average changeup, and shaky command.
Braden Shewmake, ATL (25): Though he’s behind Grissom on the depth chart, Shewmake had an impressive spring. He hit .323/.371/.452 in 33 plate appearances. Shewmake spent the entirety of 2022 in Triple-A where he posted a modest .259/.316/.399 triple-slash. Scouting reports indicate this reflects his actual talent. He’s considered a future bench guy.
Oscar Colas, CWS (24): A free-swinger, Colas seems the obvious favorite to win the right field battle in Chicago. He’s the best defensive option among those with some offensive capability. While aggression is expected to hold him back, such hitters can sometimes ride an early hot streak until opposing scouts discover their weaknesses. He’s batting .283/.298/.500 with three home runs in 47 plate appearances.
Brice Turang, MIL (23): This is Turang’s fifth Spring Training and by far his best outcome. Through 36 plate appearances, he’s batting .313/.389/.438 with a home run and a double. He’s competing for a role at either second or third base with a collection of misfits – namely Mike Brosseau, Keston Hiura, Owen Miller, and Abraham Toro.