Late January is a sluggish period in the baseball transactions calendar. As has occurred in other slow weeks this offseason, we’ll be generous with our definitions of “Big Hype” and “Prospects” in order to cover interesting players recently in the news.
Five BHPs In The News
Brett Baty, 23, 3B, Mets (MLB)
(AA/AAA) 420 PA, 19 HR, 2 SB, .315/.410/.533
Baty’s future role with the Mets has shifted a few times this offseason. When it appeared the club was set to sign Carlos Correa, Baty shifted from a potential cost-controlled building block to trade bait. The division-rival Marlins even reportedly explored a trade for Baty involving either Jesus Luzardo or Edward Cabrera. With Correa crossed off the acquisition list, Baty is back in the picture for third base reps. From a roster management perspective, an Opening Day role will likely require either a monstrous Spring Training or an injury to incumbent third baseman Eduardo Escobar. While Baty had an excellent season in the minors, he only recorded 26 plate appearances in Triple-A. He then skipped to the Majors where his issues with ground-ball contact were on display in 42 plate appearances. Encouragingly, he posted above-average exit velocities. He profiles as a high-floor future Major League regular, though he’ll need to hit more balls in the air to access a star-caliber ceiling.
Although Baty is currently a below-average defender, he has the raw tools to improve to league average with sufficient effort. For the sake of comparison, Baty’s range, throwing skills, and athleticism are superior to those of Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm.
Oscar Colas, 24, OF, White Sox (AAA)
(A+/AA/AAA) 526 PA, 23 HR, 3 SB, .314/.371/.524
Colas had an encouraging stateside debut, blitzing through High- and Double-A before finishing with a power show over 33 plate appearances at Triple-A. Despite hitting .387/.424/.645 in that brief taste of Triple-A, Colas also recorded a 36.4 percent strikeout rate and 21.6 percent swinging-strike rate. The White Sox have done little to resolve an opening in right field, leaving the position an open battle between Gavin Sheets, Eloy Jimenez, Leury Garcia, and others. Colas is expected to have a legitimate opportunity to make the Opening Day roster. The left-handed slugger has a couple traits in common with Baty – namely, he produces high exit velocities with too many ground balls. There are also questions about his plate discipline, breaking ball recognition, and feel for contact. Overall, Colas has a volatile profile – the sort one could picture winning Player of the Week honors and experiencing an 0-for-30 slump in the same season.
Drew Waters, 24, OF, Royals (MLB)
(MLB) 109 PA, 5 HR, .240/.324/.479
A former top prospect in the Braves system who lost his luster in recent seasons, Waters is another volatile outfielder with a wide range of plausible outcomes. The Royals found 109 plate appearances for him last season. He’s primed to start in 2023 following the trade of Michael A. Taylor. Since joining the Royals in the middle of 2022, Waters has posted uncharacteristically high walk rates – possibly an important sign of improvement. Long considered an undisciplined hitter, he’s always had issues with low walk and high strikeout rates. It’s worth noting his swinging-strike rate improved along with the improved walk rate. Waters can produce an above-average maximum exit velocity, but his 84.1-mph average exit velocity was among the league’s worst. All told, there are a lot of moving parts to Waters’ profile. The 2023 campaign should prove instructive for his future role.
Vaughn Grissom, 22, SS/2B, Braves (MLB)
(MLB) 156 PA, 5 HR, 5 SB, .291/.353/.440
Like teammate Michael Harris, Grissom skipped Triple-A last season and still managed to perform remarkably well. He’s an effective Spring Training away from an Opening Day role in the Braves’ middle infield. While he’s no longer a rookie, there’s no question he’s still a developing young player. Per reports, infield coach Ron Washington is encouraged by his development as a shortstop this offseason. That’s a necessary improvement, as defensive metrics indicate he struggled as a second baseman last season. Presently, the Braves’ shortstop options amount to Grissom, Orlando Arcia, Ehire Adrianza, and Hoy Park. It’s possible opposing scouts figured out how to exploit Grissom at the plate late last season. His final 53 plate appearances amounted to a .174/.264/.196 triple-slash. He also struck out in all three postseason plate appearances.
Darell Hernaiz, 21, SS, Athletics (AA)
(A/A+/AA) 452 PA, 12 HR, 32 SB, .273/.341/.438
The Athletics’ return in yesterday’s Cole Irvin trade with the Orioles, Hernaiz was considered by both clubs to be more valuable than Irvin despite the pitcher’s success in the Majors. Hernaiz’s path to a regular role in Baltimore was narrow and unlikely to be achieved. He’s praised for his work ethic and baseball acumen, leading most scouts to consider him a future utilityman as a floor. He could stand to improve his plate discipline, though it isn’t a fatal flaw like with many aggressive, young hitters. He has above-average feel for contact and has shown unexpected growth in the power department. He’s expected to remain a contact-over-power hitter. As a defender, he’s sure-handed but might lose the footspeed necessary to remain at shortstop – especially in a post-shifts era.
In my opinion, this was an intelligent move by both clubs. The Athletics landed an up-and-coming prospect who would have remained overshadowed had he stuck in the Orioles’ farm system.
Connor Norby, Orioles (22 years old): For most clubs, Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg would serve as an enviable middle infield prospect duo with Jackson Holliday offering a down-the-road reinforcement. Baltimore has additional depth, rendering Hernaiz a practically unusable luxury. Norby is Major League adjacent and hit 29 home runs across three levels last season. I get vague Chase Utley vibes from him – meaning his production comfortably exceeds his appearance. After a few looks, you’ll come to expect clutch hits in big spots.
Joey Ortiz, Orioles (24): Ortiz is also Major League adjacent. A gritty gamer, Ortiz seems destined to fill an oft-used utility role in the Orioles’ loaded infield. The club is enamored with Ortiz and may struggle to find another team that likes him as much as them, even though he’d project as a starter in most systems. His presence could help them feel comfortable dealing Westburg if and when a blockbuster opportunity emerges.
Jose Salas, Twins (19): Acquired as ballast in the Luis Arraez trade, Salas is considered a high-probability future big leaguer. As with most developing teenagers, there’s a wide degree of plausible outcomes ranging from emergency bench depth to future front-line starter. A switch-hitter, there are still exploitable holes in his swing from both sides of the plate. It’s also unclear how his power will develop.