Voting for the final participants of the Fall Stars Game is underway. The game itself is scheduled for 3pm CT on Sunday, November 6. If you happen to be in the area, swing by the game and meet up with participants of the First Pitch Arizona fantasy baseball conference hosted by Baseball HQ. Say hello from me (full disclosure, I am a staff writer with HQ).
Five Big Hype Prospects
J.T. Ginn, 23, SP, OAK (AA)
AFL: 12 IP, 4 BB, 12 K, 2.25 ERA
A former second-round pick of the New York Mets, the Athletics acquired Ginn in the Chris Bassitt trade. The right-hander is coming off a mixed performance in Double-A where he posted 10.44 K/9, 3.57 BB/9, a 56.6 percent ground ball rate, and a painful 6.11 ERA. Typically, pitchers who keep the ball on the ground while recording strikeouts and limiting walks represent a stable and effective asset class. Ginn’s season was cut short due to injury – hence his inclusion in the AFL. He only pitched 35.1 innings in 10 Double-A starts. Ginn is scheduled to pitch today (Friday) and is currently defending a brief scoreless streak. He appears to have a sufficient repertoire for starting though he might revert to relief if his command proves insufficient. While pitchers are never truly “can’t miss,” I consider Ginn to be a high-probability future Major Leaguer.
Edouard Julien, 23, 2B, MIN (AA)
AFL: 81 PA, 5 HR, 5 SB, .361/.519/.689
Far and away the top-performing hitter in the AFL, Julien appears to have turned a corner in his development. For older prospects like Julien, the fall league is for working on new skills. In his case, doing damage to pitches within the strike zone. He’s already proven to have an exceptional eye with enough contact skills to confidently take early-count strikes. However, to transition to the Majors, he’ll need to jump on those early-count cookies rather than let them pass. According to a contact, this is what he’s focusing on this fall. His 1.208 OPS suggests he’s succeeding. In addition to leading the league in OPS and walks, he’s tied for the lead in runs scored (19) and home runs (5). He’s hit all five of his home runs in the last 15 days.
For those keeping track at home, this is the same adjustment Gunnar Henderson made to launch his meteoric rise this season. That’s not to say Julien is physically comparable to Henderson, only that he has the raw ingredients to leap into the Top 100 prospects via a similar path.
Andy Pages, 21, OF, LAD (AA)
AFL: 83 PA, 4 HR, 1 SB, .286/.373/.486
If Pages has a thing to work on, it’s his strikeout rate. Thus far, he’s managed a lovely 12 percent strikeout rate this fall. He posted a 24.5 percent strikeout rate each of the last two seasons. We’ve covered Pages a few times in this column, and there’s no reason to believe anything has changed in his profile. He has average or better plate discipline, considerable raw power, and a swing geared for frequently pulled, fly ball contact. The batting profile reads similarly to early-career Rhys Hoskins. Pages has more raw power and a less discerning eye than the Phillies first baseman. He’s also far more athletic.
Pages is scheduled to participate in the Fall Stars Home Run Derby.
Zac Veen, 20, OF, COL (AA)
AFL: 85 PA, 1 HR, 16 SB, .353/.471/.456
Veen, who we touched upon during the first week of AFL coverage, remains the stolen base leader roughly one month into the season. Although he hasn’t hit for much power, the rest of his performance is encouraging. He’s recorded 14 walks compared to just six strikeouts. During the regular season, Veen showed plus discipline in High- and Double-A. However, he struggled to make contact, especially at Double-A. His AFL performance helps to put that in context. The 20-year-old was probably overmatched against older competition.
A strong showing in the upper minors next season could yield a 2023 Major League debut. The speedy outfielder is well-built for Coors Field. While we tend to think of the venue as a power haven, it bolsters all types of hitting. Besides, most scouts believe Veen will grow into considerable pop.
Kumar Rocker, 22, SP, TEX (—)
AFL: 7.2 IP, 9 BB, 8 K, 4.70 ERA
A late addition to the AFL roster, this represents Rocker’s first affiliated action. He got off to a rough start, uncorking multiple walks and wild pitches. He’s since settled down over his last two appearances, working 5.2 innings with four hits, one run, two walks, and all eight of his strikeouts. Rocker’s draft history makes for fascinating reading. Throughout his amateur prospectdom, he’s brought different arm slots and pitch mixes. The one unifying detail is a tendency for erratic command. On his best days, he looks like a surefire Major League workhorse. On his worst, he is indistinguishable from the hundreds of live-armed minor leaguers who have yet to (and might never) click on the lightbulb.
Connor Thomas, STL (24): The current strikeout leader by a healthy margin, Thomas pitched a five-inning, seven-strikeout gem since our last update. The southpaw is Rule 5 eligible and has almost certainly played his way into being selected if the Cardinals do not protect him. They appear to have sufficient roster flexibility to do so.
Evan Reifert, TBR (23): Also since our last update, Reifert has added three more no-hit innings along with seven strikeouts. That puts him at 10.2 no-hit innings on the season with 22 strikeouts. Four walks represent the lone blemish to his stat line. Reifert has the third-most strikeouts in the AFL despite throwing fewer than half the innings of Thomas.
Carlos De La Cruz, PHI (22): A mammoth human of roughly the size and shape of Aaron Judge, De La Cruz is a free-swinging center fielder with considerable power. He’s performed well this fall while still showing dreadful feel for the strike zone. His 24 strikeouts in 59 plate appearances (40.6% K%) rate as one of the worst performances in the AFL. Conversely, his .302/.373/.547 triple-slash with 16 hits, three home runs, and two triples is indicative of his quality of contact when he does connect.
Cal Conley, ATL (23): A switch-hitting future utility man who has only advanced to High-A, Conley is one of the finalists for a spot on the Fall Stars roster. He split the year between Low- and High-A, posting a roughly league-average batting line. In 83 plate appearances this fall, he’s batting .304/.422/.551 with two home runs, three triples, five doubles, and nine steals. Conley has the sixth-highest OPS over the last 15 days.
Mason Miller, OAK (24): Miller is a fireballer, regularly living in the triple-digits with his fastball. Over the last 15 days, he’s made two three-inning starts, holding opponents to just two hits, no walks, and nine strikeouts. Thus far in his professional career, he’s been used as a short-burst starter. He’s expected to eventually transition to the bullpen. His third pitch is a below-average changeup, and he also struggles with command. He fills the strike zone and lets his stuff overwhelm hitters rather than locating it.