This week, we touch on a couple impending prospect graduates and look ahead for potential future promotions.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Adley Rutschman, 24, C, BAL (MLB)
129 PA, 3 HR, 1 SB, .220/.287/.407
Rutschman’s prospect eligibility will officially expire with his next plate appearance. In a recent fantasy chat, I received a question about his disappointing performance to date. Contrary to that framing, I’ve found his play to be highly encouraging even if he hasn’t immediately incinerated all competition. His current triple-slash is good for a 96 wRC+. That’s only four percent worse than the average Major Leaguer. This season, there are only 18 catchers with a better wRC+ and at least 100 plate appearances. Rutschman is sandwiched between Sean Murphy and Daulton Varsho. He’s ahead of a slumping J.T. Realmuto. This is not a bad way to debut.
Moreover, he’s performed well in every facet of the game. Even his baserunning has contributed positively. His strikeout rate is better than league average. He swings at considerably fewer pitches out of the zone than the average hitter. He swings more often in-zone. His exit velocities are above average. His launch angle is a tad steep at present, a symptom of a couple extra infield flies. He hasn’t had issues with those in the past and will probably adjust. His current .253 BABIP has room to expand northwards, and his strikeouts could decline below his already-good rate.
Rutschman never projected as a Trout-ian hitter so it’s unfair to have expected more from his first 129 plate appearances. His value to the Orioles comes from a well-rounded skill set that lacks for notable weaknesses at a famously light-hitting position.
Corbin Carroll, 21, SS, SDP (AA)
277 PA, 16 HR, 20 SB, .313/.430/.643
Few players are more overdue for a promotion than Carroll. Diamondbacks personnel are on the record as stating he won’t skip Triple-A like Braves prospect Michael Harris. That makes sense. The Braves called upon Harris to support their title defense. The Diamondbacks are fading fast in their Wild Card chase. Barring a couple miracle weeks, they’re on their way to selling at the trade deadline. There’s no urgency to bring Carroll to Chase Field this season.
Carroll is currently on the injured list with an undisclosed injury. He finished June with a .366/.452/.704 slash in 84 plate appearances. For those hoping to see Carroll in the Majors this season, multiple regulars might need to be cleared out of the way. Arizona has excellent outfield depth in the upper minors. They’ve been frantically assessing the likes of Jake McCarthy, Cooper Hummel, and Pavin Smith to determine which will support the future outfield of Carroll, Varsho, and Alek Thomas and which should be expended.
Nick Yorke, 20, 2B, (A+)
198 PA, 5 HR, 5 SB, .235/.308/.346
Some observers mocked the Red Sox when they selected Yorke in the first round of the 2020 draft. He proceeded to have a truly excellent 2021 campaign split between Low- and High-A. He returned to High-A this spring for what many hoped would be a brief stint. Instead, he appears to have stalled.
Part of the issue is health-based. A case of turf-toe held him out for most of a month. He returned on June 21 and has looked rusty since – .179/.258/.286 with a 38.7 percent strikeout rate in 31 plate appearances. Scouting reports tend to be complementary of Yorke’s gamesmanship, believing he’ll play well beyond what can only be described as ordinary scouting tools.
Based solely on his performance data, my theory is he attempted to sell out for more power this season. His pulled contact rate increased sharply as did his swinging strike rates. It could also be a simple matter of better pitching in the low minors this season. Pitching inventories were completely exhausted last year due to many clubs carefully managing their best arms on the heels of the lost COVID season. Regardless of explanation, Yorke’s reputation as a grinder with a good baseball IQ suggests he should overcome this temporary setback. He’s still on pace to be one of the youngest players in Double-A later this season.
Oswald Peraza, 22, SS, NYY (AAA)
249 PA, 9 HR, 16 SB, .240/.309/.404
There’s a certain tyranny to developmental expectations these days. Peraza razed High-A in 2021 then performed well-enough in Double-A to earn a brief call-up to Triple-A. The Yankees returned him to Triple-A at the start of this season, but it might have been more appropriate to continue his development in Double-A. His plate approach could use refinement. He appears to have the raw tools and judgment to be disciplined but instead errs on the side of aggression. His swing is balanced and covers the zone well, especially low-to-high. I perceive some potential for big league pitchers to successfully nibble the outer edge against him, but that’s just me editorializing. I haven’t seen that mentioned in any scouting reports.
Peraza has a high-floor approach as a defensively capable shortstop with sufficient contact skills to keep his head above water. He’s also on the 40-man roster and might be the only plausible option to fill in if Gleyber Torres or Isiah Kiner-Falefa ever need an extended absence.
Ezequiel Tovar, 20, SS, COL (AA)
295 PA, 13 HR, 17 SB, .318/.386/.545
Entering this season, scouting reports focused on Tovar’s defensive prowess while downplaying his potential to hit for power. FanGraphs went so far as to comp him to a “right-handed Nicky Lopez.” The minor league stats aren’t really matching those paltry expectations.
Last season, Tovar delivered 11 home runs in 326 Low-A plate appearances. It’s uncommon for 19-year-olds to deliver a home run every 30 plate appearances – even the ones we think will one day hit for power. As you can see, he’s performing similarly in Double-A this season as one of the youngest players in the league. He currently leads the Eastern League in batting average and ranks fourth in wOBA (Gunnar Henderson still qualifies for the lead).
The main critique of Tovar is his willingness to expand the strike zone. This leads to a low walk rate, too many swinging strikes, and, as he advances, risk of weak contact on balls outside the zone. The other side of the coin is this – he expands the zone because he’s talented enough to do so. The right adjustments could unlock an incredible outcome – and another elite shortstop for the Rockies franchise.
Triston Casas, BOS (22): An ankle injury has kept Casas out of action since mid-May. He might have missed a chance to squeeze onto the big league roster. Presently, Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero are performing decently as a first base platoon, but there was a window when Dalbec looked to have fallen out of favor. Casas has resumed fielding work and hitting off a tee. He should progress to game scenarios soon.
DL Hall, BAL (23): The good news for Hall is he’s pitching deeper into his outings. He’s averaged 21 batters faced over his last four starts which is right on par with the workload handled by short-burst starters in the Majors. The bad news is, in those four starts, he’s allowed 16 runs (11 earned) over just 16.2 innings. The two most recent outings – both against the Phillies affiliate – are to blame. He issued 10 walks against only five strikeouts in those appearances. Walks (6.57 BB/9) have been a season-long issue.
Michael Harris, ATL (21): Like Rutschman, this could be Harris’ last episode of BHP as a prospect-eligible player. He’s already at 118 plate appearances and should surpass the 130-plate appearance rookie-threshold by the end of the weekend. His early success (139 wRC+) comes with a few red flags. He’s needed a .402 BABIP and a hyperaggressive approach to overcome an elevated 14.9 percent swinging strike rate. Projection systems believe he’ll regress to slightly below league average as a hitter.
Ivan Herrera, STL (22): The heir apparent to Yadier Molina, Herrera has seen semi-regular action in the Majors while Molina is on the mend from a knee injury. His first taste of the Majors hasn’t gone well yet. He has just two hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts in 18 plate appearances. However, he hit well in Triple-A (.291/.388/.436) and figures to settle in as a plus-defender with a knack for barreled, low-angle contact.
Josh Smith, TEX (24): A key component of the Joey Gallo trade, Smith recently returned from the injured list and has held his own in the Majors. He’s batting an OBP-centric .258/.439/.290. He has a similar hit tool and plate discipline to Rays utility man Taylor Walls with a little more built-in power. He gives every indication of becoming at least a league average hitter who can man most positions.