This week on Big Hype Prospects, we continue our offseason tradition of focusing on players tangentially linked to news and rumors.
Five BHPs In The News
Anthony Volpe, 21, SS, NYY (AAA)
(AA) 497 PA, 18 HR, 44 SB, .251/.348/.472
True to their word, the Yankees never got around to solving their left field opening with an external addition. Nor did they upgrade Josh Donaldson after the veteran turned in his worst-hitting performance since 2012. The club has opted to go with internal depth like Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Also factoring into the calculus is the imminent arrival of Volpe.
The 21-year-old slugger has only 99 plate appearances of experience at Triple-A and posted a modest 91 wRC+ at the level. While minor league data isn’t comprehensive, there’s evidence Volpe was too patient with pitches inside the strike zone. A repeat at the level makes sense given the personnel already on hand in the Majors. It would require an incredible Spring Training for Volpe to crack the Opening Day lineup. In the interim, with Gleyber Torres participating in the World Baseball Classic, Volpe should have more opportunities for middle infield game reps.
Hayden Wesneski, 25, SP, CHC (MLB)
(AAA) 110.1 IP, 8.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.92 ERA
With Kyle Hendricks expected to begin the season on the injured list, the Cubs have a battle for the fifth rotation slot. The most intriguing entrant is Wesneski, a right-hander who showed a knack for avoiding hard contact in a brief 33-inning trial last season. Wesneski features a five-pitch repertoire including three distinct fastballs, a slider, and a changeup. While he doesn’t project to run rampant strikeout totals in the Majors, Wesneski is stingy about allowing hits and walks. It’s a Jameson Taillon-like profile, and it’s probably no accident the Cubs acquired both players in the last calendar year.
Logan O’Hoppe, 23, C, LAA (MLB)
(AA) 447 PA, 26 HR, 7 SB, .283/.416/.544
Acquired at the previous trade deadline for formerly hyped prospect Brandon Marsh, O’Hoppe will compete with Max Stassi for a starting role on the thirsty Angels. Although the right-handed hitter has yet to play in Triple-A, the Angels gave him a vote of confidence in the form of 16 Major League plate appearances last fall. O’Hoppe took advantage of hitter-friendly conditions to torch Double-A pitching. His 2022 breakout included improved plate discipline without sacrificing aggression against pitches in the heart of the zone. This is a relatively rare adjustment. Should he seize the Opening Day job, keep an eye on his plate discipline metrics. If he retains his selective aggression, O’Hoppe could emerge as one of the top catchers in the league.
Kyle Harrison, 21, SP, SFG (AA)
(AA) 84 IP, 13.61 K/9, 4.18 BB/9, 3.11 ERA
Including High-A, Harrison threw a total of 113 innings. He should approach a full complement of 30 starts this season – perhaps with a mix of longer and shorter outings to manage his workload. The Giants put together a deep pool of Major League starters. In addition to the presumed starting five of Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, and Alex Wood, Jakob Junis and Anthony Desclafani await in the bullpen.
While Harrison finds himself behind a number of very qualified starters, the pool of viable minor leaguer replacements is relatively thin. This is also a group of veterans who (mostly) have familiarity with major injuries. This apparent depth could evaporate at a moment’s notice, offering a temporary opportunity for Harrison to audition. As of last look, command is Harrison’s greatest weakness. Most scouts think he’ll develop in this regard. If not, his stuff is sufficient to support him in short-burst starter or elite fireman roles.
Vidal Brujan, 25, 2B/OF, TBR (MLB)
(MLB) 162 PA, 3 HR, 5 SB, .163/.228/.259
Although technically no longer a prospect, Brujan still fits a looser definition of an “unestablished, young player.” He’s also received plenty of hype over the years. Brujan doesn’t fit cleanly on this iteration of the Rays roster, leading MLBTR staffer Anthony Franco to consider him a trade candidate. The switch-hitter has struggled to make impactful contact at the top level, though he has posted an above-average batting line at every minor league level – aside from nine plate appearances at Low-A in 2016. At one point, prospect watchers secretly hoped Brujan would flip a power switch like similarly-built infielder Jose Ramirez. Now it’s looking likelier Brujan settles as a defense-first regular with a contact-forward hitting approach.
Thad Ward, WSH (26): Although I’ve yet to hear of the Nationals planning to use Ward as a starter this season, the absence of Stephen Strasburg creates a tempting opportunity. Ward has served as a starter throughout his minor league career and profiles as a potential rotation regular. The Nationals are in a state of internal evaluation and have little reason to withhold starts from their Rule 5 pick.
James Outman, LAD (25): After spending much of the offseason with a clear path to a starting role, Outman now finds himself locked behind David Peralta. As a fellow left-handed hitter, Outman faces an uphill battle for regular reps.
DL Hall, BAL (24): Hall is currently behind schedule due to lower back discomfort. The oft-injured southpaw already looked questionable to make the Opening Day rotation. This setback only increases the risk of a minor league assignment. While Hall undoubtedly could play as a Major League reliever, the club is still assessing his potential as a starter.