It feels good to breathe again – by which I mean identify players to write about based upon who is tearing up minor league ball. While there hasn’t been much action yet, we have many big-name prospects appearing in Triple-A boxscores. Catchers feature prominently this week.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Vaughn Grissom, 22, 2B/SS, ATL (AAA)
16 PA, 1 HR, 2 SB, .417/.563/1.083
One of the top performers of Opening Weekend, Grissom seeks to embarrass the Braves for choosing Orlando Arcia and Ehire Adrianza over him. This is his first exposure to Triple-A after spending most of 2022 in High-A and the Majors. The extra taste of upper-minors action could be designed to avoid a developmental setback related to facing Major League pitching. Grissom appeared overexposed late last season once scouting reports were refined. There are still questions about his shortstop defense – questions that should be answered during the course of 2023.
Matthew Liberatore, 23, SP, STL (AAA)
5 IP, 12.60 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 0.00 ERA
Of the prospect pitchers in Triple-A, Liberatore posted the best 2023 debut. He allowed six baserunners in five innings of work with seven strikeouts. Liberatore is a complicated player to scout. His individual pitches rate well, especially a visually filthy curve ball. The issue is his curve doesn’t tunnel with any of his other offerings, making it identifiable out of the hand. Last season, Liberatore worked to a 5.17 ERA in Triple-A with a 5.97 ERA in 34.2 Major League innings.
Tyler Soderstrom, 21, C/1B, OAK (AAA)
10 PA, 1 HR, .556/.600/1.222
A first-round pick from the wonky 2020 draft, Soderstrom surged through the minors last season. His bat is his calling card. He’s particularly adept at producing high exit velocities at an ideal launch angle. Defensively, he leaves much to be desired. While he could conceivably stick at catcher with several more years of hard work, his bat is nearly Major League ready and should play at first base. For that reason, as well as the presence of Shea Langeliers, Soderstrom is widely expected to switch to the cold corner on a more permanent basis this season.
Bo Naylor, 23, C, CLE (AAA)
15 PA, 2 HR, .385/.467/.923
Naylor is coming off a huge rebound season in the minors with an aim toward building upon his reputation as a power-hitting backstop. He has above-average speed for a catcher and could potentially move off the position over the long haul. His defensive capability is viewed as below average at this time. For now, the Guardians have rostered a trio of catchers known mainly for their defense. Like Soderstrom, Naylor’s bat is his carrying trait. He is a discipline-forward slugger whose high rate of contact is offset by an unwillingness to swing at pitches he can’t barrel. The result is a high strikeout rate despite a low swinging strike rate.
Chase Silseth, 23, SP, LAA (AAA)
5 IP, 10.80 K/9, 1.80 BB/9, 0.00
Silseth popped up as a standout in Double-A early last season. The pitching-needy Angels brought him directly to the Majors where he posted a 6.59 ERA (4.24 xFIP) in 28.2 innings. Silseth has a five-pitch repertoire. I’ve received mixed notes on his command. While we know he doesn’t issue many free passes, that could be because his stuff plays in the zone against minor league hitters. His best offering is a splitter. Silseth himself blamed the splitter for his poor performance in the Majors, noting that he needed the pitch to be on to succeed. Splitter consistency is a difficult trait to develop, especially for a starting pitcher. Don’t be surprised if he’s inconsistent as he loses and regains feel for his top weapon.
Matt Mervis, CHC (25): Mervis is an odd prospect in that he continues to torch the ball, yet scouts doubt his ability to hold a regular role in the Majors. He has a 1.167 OPS through 15 plate appearances. We should see him tested against Major League pitching before the calendar flips to summer.
Brett Baty, NYM (24): Baty’s strong spring continued into Triple-A. He has two home runs, a stolen base, and a 1.257 OPS through 15 plate appearances. Mets fans on social media are eager to see Baty oust Eduardo Escobar who is currently 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts.
Connor Norby, BAL (22): The Orioles’ impending glut of middle infielders includes Norby. The second baseman consistently outperforms his modest scouting grades. Bear in mind, the Orioles’ minor league venues are far friendlier to right-handed batters than Camden Yards. Norby strikes me as an obvious trade candidate later this summer.