This week on Big Hype Prospects, I play it fast and loose with “big hype” in order to focus on some Spring Training battles.
Five BHPs In The News
Will Brennan, 25, OF, CLE (MLB)
(AAA) 433 PA, 9 HR, 15 SB, .316/.367/.471
A favorite of mine and my main contact with Baseball America, Brennan is in a roster battle with Oscar Gonzalez and Myles Straw this spring. Between average discipline and a strong feel for contact, he’s the Guardians latest candidate to walk more than he strikes out. The left-handed hitter looks like a future doubles machine even if his home run output is a tad underwhelming. His defense is solid in the corners and passable in center. With Straw on the roster and a fly ball-oriented pitching staff, he’s not ideal for center field. The lack of home run potential is an odd look in an outfield corner, yet his feel for hard contact implies a three- or four-win player in a similar mold to teammate Steven Kwan. After Gonzalez shatter expectations last season, it will be interesting to see how the Guardians distribute playing time.
Cade Cavalli, 24, SP, WSH (MLB)
(AAA) 97 IP, 9.65 K/9, 3.62 BB/9, 3.71 ERA
Cavalli made his debut last fall and struggled in his only appearance. He flashed his impressive repertoire of four above average offerings, but his below average command was also on display. This is a profile that tends to experience success in the Majors after a sometimes lengthy adjustment period. The Nationals will be looking to build him up after throwing only 101.1 total innings last season. He’s expected to break camp with the club. Don’t be surprised if they take opportunities to give him extra rest or restrict his innings per start. The plan should look similar to the usage of Josiah Gray last season. He threw 148.2 innings across 28 starts. As a stuff-over-command starter, he has some of the same markers as Dylan Cease.
Justyn-Henry Malloy, 23, 3B, DET (AAA)
(A+/AA/AAA) 591 PA, 17 HR, 5 SB, .289/.408/.454
After lighting up three levels in 2022, the Braves included Malloy in the Joe Jimenez trade. Atlanta’s recent track record with prospect trades is rather incredible. For the most part, they’ve kept the winners and dealt away the laggards. Malloy’s inclusion in a trade for a reliever with a checkered past could be viewed as a negative mark. I polled two scouting contacts and received different takes. One doesn’t believe Malloy impacts the ball enough to be a high-probability regular. The other is more optimistic about the plate discipline carrying the profile. Malloy walked in 16.4 percent of plate appearances last season while keeping his swinging strike rate below 10 percent. He has an extreme pulled contact approach with a roughly balanced 20/40/40 blend of liners/grounders/flies. Malloy resembles a Max Muncy starter kit – just keep in mind Muncy finally broke out in his age 27 season. There’s no guarantee Malloy finds the barreled and hard contact rates that drive Muncy’s success. On the other hand, he has a decent shot to play his way onto the roster later this season.
Logan O’Hoppe, 23, C, LAA (MLB)
(AA) 447 PA, 26 HR, 7 SB, .283/.416/.544
Acquired in the Brandon Marsh trade, O’Hoppe is competing with Max Stassi and out-of-options Matt Thaiss for the Angels catching job. Aside from a brief 16 plate appearance debut, O’Hoppe spent all of last season in Double-A. This spring, he has neither thrived nor embarrassed himself to this point. His 2022 breakout seemed predicated on a surge of plate discipline. That he further improved upon joining the Angels affiliate, including a .306/.473/.673 line in 131 plate appearances, is a positive sign. Assuming the club avoids injury, it could be tempting to give O’Hoppe further seasoning in Triple-A. There seemingly isn’t room for all three of Stassi, Thaiss, and O’Hoppe on the roster. While he’s their catcher of the future, clinging to Thaiss in the short-term makes some sense.
Conner Capel, 25, OF, OAK (MLB)
(AAA) 409 PA, 20 HR, 21 SB, .264/.364/.422
A favorite of mine to earn an extended look at some point this season, Capel has already outlasted JJ Bleday this spring. Capel is performing well following a successful 2022 split between St. Louis and Oakland. There’s every chance Capel is the best outfielder in camp at this moment. He’s been inconsistent throughout his minor league assent, at times showing discipline or over-aggression, a feel for contact or a hefty whiff rate, and a power- or speed-based profile. Given his long and winding journey, it’s hard to pin down exactly who he’ll become in the future. That he’s experimented with so many modes of play suggests he’s highly adaptable, a trait which does well to predict Major League success. While other franchises would view Capel as a capable backup, the Athletics should have starting opportunities available throughout the season.
Ji-Hwan Bae, PIT (23): In the mix for the Pirates starting second base job, Bae is off to a slow start this spring. So too is his competition. When Bae is on, he shows an above average eye with feel for contact. While he doesn’t produce much power, he should reach base enough to disrupt pitchers with his speed.
Jo Adell, LAA (23): Adell is expected to begin the season in Triple-A in deference to the Angels outfield veterans. That will trigger his final minor league option. It’s his last chance for regular playing time before playing waiver roulette. Adell can still put a charge in the ball, but it does seem like he would benefit from joining a non-contender willing to set him loose without restriction. His spring stats to date don’t suggest he’ll upset Taylor Ward or Hunter Renfroe for playing time.
Yainer Diaz, HOU (24): An aggressive free-swinger with thump, Diaz draws half-hearted comps to Salvador Perez. In the minors, he’s shown a capacity for making high-quality contact despite an expansive approach. He appears to be susceptible to breaking balls. Diaz is making a bid to join the Astros as their backup catcher – one who could offer more thump than defense-first Martin Maldonado.