Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Chicago White Sox. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.
A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.
All of the numbered prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »
Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Cleveland Guardians. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.
This season, Eric and Tess Taruskin will each have a minor league roundup post that runs during the week, with the earlier post recapping some of the weekend’s action. You can read previous installments of our prospect notes here.
Jordan Brewer, OF, Houston Astros
Level & Affiliate: High-A Asheville Age: 24 Org Rank: TBD FV: 40
Weekend Line: 7-for-11, 3 HR, 2B, 3B, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 SB
Brewer has always had big tools (plus-plus speed, above-average raw power, a plus arm) and some late-bloomer qualities. He was draft eligible in 2018 at Lincoln Trail JC in Illinois and went unselected, but emerged after he transferred to Michigan and went in the third round in 2019. Brewer has barely played pro ball due to a combination of the pandemic and injuries, including a knee surgery. Even though he’s already 24, you could reasonably hope things will click for him on a delay because of the atypical amateur path and all the missed reps in pro ball. Brewer’s start to the 2022 season is what it would look like on paper if that was actually happening. He’s halfway to his 2021 home run total after just six games. Read the rest of this entry »
This season, Eric and Tess Taruskin will each have a minor league roundup post run during the week, with the earlier post recapping some of the weekend’s action. Those posts will typically run Monday or Tuesday (since Monday is widely an off day for the minors), though they will occasionally be featured later in the week, as Eric’s notes are here.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Level & Affiliate: High-A Cedar Rapids Age: 22 Org Rank: HM FV: 35
Line: 10-for-14, 3 HR, 2 2B, 1 SB, 15 RBI (!)
Wow! Encarnacion-Strand ended up at the bottom of our Twins list because we think he’s destined for first base and has more swing-and-miss going on than we’re comfortable with at that position. After transferring from Yavapai to Oklahoma State, he only struck out in about 19% of the plate appearances during his lone Division-I season, which is less than I’d have guessed based on my in-person notes on his contact ability. He certainly has big power, though. The universal DH helps Encarnacion-Strand’s cause since there are more 1B/DH jobs in the majors now, and teams are more open to platooning there and/or carrying a positionless bopper on their bench. Read the rest of this entry »
The Diamondbacks and Rangers made a minor deal on Opening Day, with Texas sending upper-level infielder Yonny Hernandez to Arizona for low-level center field speedster Jeferson Espinal. Arizona desperately needs big league infield help with Nick Ahmed (shoulder) and Josh Rojas (oblique) starting the year on the injured list. They traded cash to Chicago for upper-level infielder Sergio Alcántara a few days ago and now add the plucky Hernandez, who was squeezed out of Texas by the additions of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien from above, and by the bevy of prospects (among them Ezequiel Duran, Josh Smith, and Davis Wendzel) who are either on, or are soon-to-be-on, the 40-man from below. Read the rest of this entry »
Just before Opening Day, the Brewers played musical chairs with their catching corps in a pair of moves perhaps triggered by losing Pedro Severino to a PED suspension. They made two trades, adding two backstops and subtracting another, and shipping a couple of lower-ranked prospects out as part of the deals. They are:
From Miami: C Alex Jackson
To Miami: 2B Hayden Cantrelle and RHP Alexis Ramirez
From San Diego: C Victor Caratini
To San Diego: C Brett Sullivan and UTIL Korry Howell Read the rest of this entry »
Frankie Montas was a late scratch from his Saturday start and instead, on Sunday, threw in an early-morning sim game on Oakland’s backfields. Opposing scouts in attendance were from (in totality) Boston, Kansas City, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay.
Montas threw about 80 pitches, warming up and then working in eight-to-ten minute chunks against A’s big league hitters, with staff adding batters to the end of some innings and rolling others to stay within that window (which is commonplace in this setting). Then the whole group took a break for four or five minutes before Montas returned to the mound for another simulated inning. With no umpires, the A’s used the TrackMan pitch locations to call balls and strikes from their seating area behind the backstop; the unit began malfunctioning at the very end of his outing, but only for four pitches.
I have video of his entire outing below, and in addition to it being a topical scouting artifact given trade rumors around Montas, it is also a glimpse into big league minutiae in a quiet setting with just a few scouts, A’s staff, and player families around. You can often hear communication between A’s players and personnel around pitch type and velocity, but there’s no exposure of sensitive ops stuff, something I vetted while cutting this together.
Montas’ fastball ranged from 92–95 mph, but he was consistently pumping in a heavy 93–94 sinker. He was clearly coasting, as a big league vet of this stature should during a morning sim game, so the fact that this velo band is abnormally low for him — his fastball averaged 96 in 2021 and had been sitting close to that so far this spring — is fine. The pitch had big sinking action toward the bottom of the zone early during his outing and induced several ground balls, though hitters had an easier time elevating it later on. As the movement on his fastball dwindled throughout his outing, the length and movement of his upper-80s slider increased, and he found more consistent feel for locating it later in the sim game. At times he uses it like a bat-breaking cutter, at others as a finishing pitch out of the zone. Though it was his least consistent offering, many of his sliders were plus. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, we ranked the game’s position players. This week, we turn our attention to the pitchers, starting with the bullpens in the bottom half of the reliever rankings.
As I said last year during this exercise, there are some positions for which an obvious, wide gap exists between the top teams and the bottom, where we can more definitively say that some teams are better than others. For instance, it’s clear the best third base situation belongs to the Guardians because of José Ramírez, and that the Phillies and Dodgers should be near the top of the catcher rankings due to J.T. Realmuto and Will Smith. Relief pitching is not one of those positions. Sure, we have the bullpens ranked, and you can see their statistical projections above and below, but be sure to also notice how thin the margins are here, and consider that relievers are generally volatile. I’ve indicated where I think the projection systems are under- or over-estimating these groups.
The Marlins have made a clear effort to add stable, short-term veterans like Dylan Floro, Anthony Bass, Louis Head, and Richard Bleier while also taking fliers on big velocity closer to their roster’s fringe (Rule 5’ing Zach Pop; signing Anthony Bender, who has become integral; adding Jimmy Yacabonis, Tommy Nance, and Aneurys Zabala). This org has leaned almost completely away from backspinning, carrying style fastballs and into sinkers, with only converted outfielder Sean Guenther and the newly acquired Cole Sulser working with a backspinning heater.
That’s fascinating and also potentially a problem, since pitchers with sinker shape fastballs tend to miss fewer bats than their backspinning counterparts, and arm slot/stylistic diversity would seem to be an advantage for bullpens. Miami lacks this, and will parade heavy fastball after heavy fastball out of their bullpen, though changeup artist Nick Neidert makes for an interesting change of pace option in long relief.
The shape of the movement on Sulser’s breaking ball and changeup both changed in 2021 and he had a career season at age 31. Hard-throwing enigma Tanner Scott, also acquired Sunday, had an ERA over 5.00 last year but his xFIP was closer to 4.00. He’s always going to have issues with walks, but his rare lefty velocity and plus-plus slider give him a shot to have dominant stretches when his delivery is clicking. It feels like he’s been around forever but Scott is only just on the precipice of his arbitration years.
It’s possible that a combination of injuries and team need will lead to one or both of Edward Cabrera and Sixto Sánchez ending the year as Miami’s high-leverage options coming out of the ‘pen. Those two have such incredible stuff that they could be dominant despite their fastballs’ underlying blemishes, and the young Marlins rotation may be tough to crack.
Having swingman Cody Poteet back for the entire year makes Miami’s group of swingman/long relief types deep with homegrown guys who have come up as starters, with Brax Garrett, Neidert, and Jordan Holloway fitting that bill as well.
This group is both extremely right-handed and in flux as the Reds rebuild. Lucas Sims has found consistency in the Reds ‘pen with his reworked arm action. His set a career-high in fastball velocity, slider usage, and strikeout rate last season. Luis Cessa was a middle-inning stalwart in New York for a long time and should be a four-to-six out option here. Jeff Hoffman is the higher-variance version of that multi-inning relief profile. The Reds gave Hoffman a slider in lieu of his curveball when they acquired him from Colorado, and his strikeout rate increased last year, but he still walks too many guys.
Justin Wilson had shoulder and hamstring issues in 2021 and had his worst season. He’s had injuries limit him to fewer than 40 innings in each of the last two complete seasons.
Watch Art Warren here. After dealing with many injuries and velo fluctuations in Seattle, he seems to have stabilized and was dominant across a small sample in the big leagues last year. He sits 95 mph and has a plus slider, which he throws nearly 60% of the time.
The Reds are Hunter Strickland’s seventh org since 2019, and his once prodigious velocity is now closer to average.
Tony Santillan and Ryan Hendrix are both mid-90s with a slider types. Young Dauri Moreta is a little athletic guy who fills the zone. Trey Wingenter looks svelte and sat 97-99 mph in my live looks at him this spring, but his command is all over the place. Reiver Sanmartin is more likely to pitch in the rotation than work out of the bullpen, unless some of the younger prospects bubble up through the system throughout the year.
While he obviously has closer-quality stuff, can Gregory Soto execute with the consistency of a contending team’s closer? I’m skeptical. Alex Lange is a dark horse candidate to supplant him by the end of the year. While his fastball doesn’t miss a ton of bats, both of Lange’s secondaries generated swinging strike rates in excess of 22% last year. If any of Kyle Funkhouser (16% BB% last season), Joe Jiménez (nearly 17% BB%) or José Cisnero (12% BB%, has dealt with elbow issues this spring) progress from a strike-throwing standpoint, they’re all candidates to be the first bullpen banana by the end of the year, as they all have huge stuff. For this relief corps to hang with those of the true contenders, several of them would need to take that step.
Andrew Chafin, who signed with Detroit in March, has been a steady primary lefty option out of big league bullpens since 2014 and is coming off a career-high innings total and career-low ERA. He’ll begin the season on the IL with a groin injury, but isn’t expected to be out for long. After he had dealt with consistent injury, Michael Fulmer’s arm strength seemed to be all the way back last year, as he sat 95.7 mph, up nearly three ticks from his 2020 fastball velo. He’s been averaging only about 92 so far this spring, though.
While the Tigers have built good-looking starter depth such that they can deal with the typical rate of injury while keeping pace with the other American League Central teams, that depth doesn’t seem to exist in their bullpen.
The Mariners’ combination of depth and high-end options might suffice to come away with enough tightly contested games to contend for their division crown, though we probably shouldn’t expect them to quite replicate last year’s 33-19 record in one-run games. Paul Sewald was still only sitting 91-92 mph in my live looks this spring, but the angle of his fastball and Sewald’s command of it make his power pitcher rebirth a viable mode of operation. Diego Castillo and Drew Steckenrider have upper-90s heat and late-inning experience, while Andrés Muñoz has been pumping 99-101 mph this spring and might be the best weapon in this bullpen by the end of the year if he can harness his slider.
Maybe some of Sergio Romo’s legendary slider command will rub off on Muñoz. The 39-year-old vet is still a viable middle-inning option and will present an awkward mid-game change of pace to opposing hitters. His addition here is a sign Wyatt Mills isn’t quite ready.
Anthony Misiewicz (pronounced mih-SEV-itch) is an athletic, multi-pitch lefty with a great arm action. He, Justus Sheffield, and Erik Swanson (Misiewicz is easily the best athlete of those three) all have starting experience but Sheffield is the one most likely to work multiple innings in relief. Matthew Festa has bounced back a bit and was sitting 90-92 mph during the spring.
The Guardians feel as though they’re ranked too low relative to the quality of their stuff. Emmanuel Clase agreed to a five-year extension over the weekend. His 100 mph cutter is an elite, unique weapon, and Clase is the most electric of a very entertaining group in Cleveland.
James Karinchak and Nick Mikolajchak (if you pronounce it like “Michael Logic,” then you’re pretty close) each have fastballs with gigantic carry, though Karinchak’s stuff was less explosive after sticky stuff enforcement picked up last year. Young Mikolajchak has a chance to be a late-inning weapon thanks to his fastball’s riding action and his plus-plus slider.
Converted outfielder Anthony Gose also has premium stuff if we’re looking at fastball velocity and breaking ball shape, but he’s never commanded either pitch well enough to establish himself since he made the switch to the mound five years ago. Submariner Nick Sandlin was a starter in college and adds to this relief corps’ fun factor. Power lefty Sam Hentges might break out in a relief role, as he’ll be allowed to inelegantly bully hitters with his upper-90s gas.
Cutter maestro Bryan Shaw is in year two of his second tour of duty with Cleveland and still performs like a stable middle relief piece. Former Rule 5 pick Trevor Stephan is a traditional mid-90s/slider sixth- or seventh-inning type.
There’s talent and volatility to the extreme in this group, such that I would not be surprised if it was one of the best five bullpens in baseball when the year concludes. All of Ryan Helsley, Alex Reyes, Giovanny Gallegos, Jordan Hicks, Génesis Cabrera, and even a healthy, in-shape Kodi Whitley have closer-quality stuff, but all of them have dealt with injury or fluctuations in that stuff. If this entire group is banging on all cylinders, it will be a contender-quality bullpen, though it has already taken a hit, as Reyes has a frayed labrum and was just put on the 60-day IL.
Gallegos’ velocity dipped in the middle of last year, when he was part of ongoing trade rumors, then resurged toward the end of the season; he again finished with a FIP under 3.00. Cabrera has three plus pitches and 30-grade control. Helsley and Hicks have each dealt with myriad injuries throughout their careers, but look healthy this spring. Hicks was only sitting in the mid-90s during the 2021 Fall League, but he’s been sitting 99-101 mph as he tunes up in Eastern Florida; Helsley has been sitting 95-98. Both sinkerballers figure to work late innings here, and the hard-throwing hydra of Gallegos, Cabrera, Helsley and Hicks has the feel of a contender’s late-inning contingent.
Whitley or Junior Fernández could conceivably join that group. Whitley has only been sitting 91-94 mph this spring but his fastball’s carry and angle allow him to pump it past hitters at the letters, and his changeup is plus, as is Fernández’s.
Buttressing that group are the steady Nick Wittgren and T.J. McFarland. McFarland is the Platonic ideal of the second bullpen lefty, while Wittgren is an efficient, strike-throwing middle-inning option. Aaron Brooks and Drew VerHagen are the latest in a streak of Cardinals signed out of pro ball in Asia. Brooks (coming back from the KBO’s Kia Tigers) has a four-pitch mix and can really spin it, but he lost a tick of velo from 2020 to ’21. VerHagen’s delivery changed in Japan and he’s projected to open the season in the rotation, but could work a few innings in relief if Jack Flaherty comes back from injury in short order.
If the sidewinding Camilo Doval can continue to locate his slider with the consistency he found late last year, he’ll be one of the best relievers in baseball. That was not a feature of his skillset until crunch time in 2021.
Skee-Ball style righty Tyler Rogers is the most important pitcher in the game for your casual baseball-watching friends and family to see, as he defies all convention. As baseball becomes more fixated on low release heights, will we see more pitchers who use this style of bowling? And if we do, will hitters start to become more comfortable against them? In any event, Doval, Rogers, and 35-year-old Jake McGee (in year two of his deal, with a club option for 2023) figure to work in the back of this bullpen.
Like chunks of their big league roster, the Giants relief corp features several pieces who were squeezed off other clubs’ rosters. Veteran journeyman Dominic Leone’s fastball averaged a career-high 95 mph last year, and the same was true for former Twin Zack Littell. Former Marlin Jarlín García finally started leaning on his changeup (which was projected to be his best pitch while he was a prospect) in 2021 and posted a career-high strikeout rate. Groundball machine José Álvarez started using his changeup more often while he was with the Phillies, a trend which has continued with San Francisco.
New names here include Matthew Boyd (from Detroit) and Jakob Junis (from Kansas City). Junis’ repertoire shifted to include more cutters last year, and he had a career best season. Boyd will start the year on the IL. Converted catcher Kervin Castro made his debut last year, and sat 94-95 mph with a big curveball again this spring.
During their rebuilding phase, the Cubs have targeted bullpen consistency rather than play strike-throwing roulette with young flamethrowers who theoretically have more ceiling. Former Brave Chris Martin has the third-lowest walk rate among relievers with at least 150 innings pitched since 2015 at a minuscule 4%. Jesse Chavez, Steven Brault (who, in true baseball rat fashion, was randomly hanging out at an ASU game earlier this spring), Daniel Norris and several others lower down the depth chart have starting experience and could provide multiple innings out of the bullpen, which is extremely valuable early on as starters continue to get their feet under them after an abbreviated spring training.
David Robertson leaned into his fastball’s cut action and looked good down the stretch for the Rays last year. Rowan Wick and Mychael Givens are both converted position players. Wick, 29, has had trouble staying healthy for an entire season. Givens, who has one of the more entertaining deliveries of this century, doubled his changeup usage in 2021 and remains effective even though his velo has been slipping.
While these familiar names are the bedrock of the bullpen for now, several fresh-faced prospects will start to trickle in throughout this season and become the core of the next competitive Cubs contingent. Manuel Rodríguez and his upper-90s fastball arrived last year. Ben Leeper will likely be the first 2020 undrafted free agent to reach the big leagues, while Cayne Ueckert and Ethan Roberts, the latter of whom has elite curveball spin, are both potential long-term fits in the North Side ‘pen. Michael Rucker and Keegan Thompson are long relief/swingman types, with Thompson potentially vying for a rotation spot throughout the summer.
Sean Doolittle and Tyler Clippard are back for a bespectacled epilogue to their Nationals careers after having previously spent almost 11 combined seasons in D.C., with three combined All-Star appearances between them. Doolittle had a velo rebound in 2021 after a rough, shortened 2020 campaign during which he lost three ticks from the prior season. Clippard’s arm strength has been slowly seeping away since (checks) wow, 2012, dwindling into the upper-80s for the last few seasons. He’s 37 now and is near the end of an incredible 15-year big league career. Will Harris (age 37) and low-slot slingin’ Steve Cishek (35) each have merely a decade of experience under their belts. Cishek remains a middle-inning weapon against righties (opposing right-handed hitters have slashed .210/.278/.305 throughout his career) while Harris has only thrown 23 innings combined over the last two seasons.
Austin Voth moved to the bullpen in 2021 and picked up two ticks of velo. He’ll provide multiple innings in relief. So, too, could 24-year-old Francisco Perez (acquired last year from Cleveland), veteran Paolo Espino, or Aaron Sanchez, all of whom have experience starting.
The Nationals have a half-dozen hard-throwing enigmas in their mid-20s who have a chance to grow into true late-inning options. Finnegan was signed as a minor league free agent a couple of offseasons ago and established himself in a middle-inning role before closing several Nats games late last year. He sits 95 mph, but his splitter and slider miss bats more frequently than his heater. Patrick Murphy and Hunter Harvey have premium stuff but lost huge chunks of their tenures with their previous teams (Harvey mostly with Baltimore, Murphy with Toronto) to injury, and so has mercurial lefty Seth Romero. Tanner Rainey probably has the best pure stuff in this entire group but was extremely wild when he was healthy last season. Mason Thompson, 24, was acquired from San Diego for Daniel Hudson last year and sits 96-99 mph with a plus slider, but tends to be very wild.
Chris Stratton, a converted starter, had been an ultra-consistent middle-inning option for the last few years, and moved into the Pirates closer role very late in 2021. David Bednar, the older brother of 2021 College World Series Most Outstanding Player and Giants prospect Will Bednar, has more traditional closer’s stuff, pumping gas at 96 mph while both his curveball and splitter generate plus swinging strike rates.
Heath Hembree is on a one-year deal coming off a career season during which he scrapped his curveball and had a little velo bump, leading to a personal best strikeout rate. His 5.59 ERA in 2021 was a mirage.
This site was skeptical of Duane Underwood Jr. as a prospect, and while he hasn’t hit what his proponents hoped his ceiling would be, he has performed pretty well relative to the non-first round high school pitchers who were picked in his draft year, insofar as he’s had a multi-year big league career. He doubled his career innings total last season.
Anthony Banda, once a Top 100 prospect, struggled with injuries for several years just as he was on the precipice of the big leagues. He was claimed off waivers from San Francisco last season and made a change from a slider to a curveball immediately after the move, so maybe that pitch will progress this year. He is one of several lefties in the mix for big league reps next to the Allegheny. Aaron Fletcher (who has been traded a few times) lost velocity last year, but at peak he has worked in the mid-90s with sink and tail, and a big, sweeping slider. Sam Howard sits 93 mph and has a good slider, while Dillon Peters has a bevy of fringe pitches.
Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears have huge arm strength. Miguel Yajure hasn’t pitched yet this spring due to a lingering back issue. Injuries have now defined his last several seasons.
The 37-year-old Mark Melancon (on a two-year pact), prodigal son Ian Kennedy (one year with a mutual option for 2023) and 40-year-old lefty Oliver Pérez will all try to stabilize a D-backs bullpen that is in the midst of significant turnover. Given how effectively he varies the cadence of his delivery, it’s no wonder that Pérez, who on Saturday faced a lineup of Padres prospects literally half his age, has been able to cheat Father Time to this point. Melancon’s cutter was only sitting 88 mph at the end of March, which is four ticks below his 2021 level of velocity. Kennedy’s fastballs, sitting 92 mph, are down merely two ticks from 2021. It’s early… right?
Night owl baseball fans will recognize J.B. Wendelken and Noé Ramirez, who have been middle-inning stalwarts in Oakland and Anaheim, respectively, for most of their careers, and are now occupying the middle innings in the desert.
Looking for breakout candidates here? Sean Poppen, who couldn’t quite crack the Twins pitching staff and has since bounced around Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and now Arizona, has a great slider and his fastball has been peaking in the 96-97 mph area this spring, sitting 94. Young Luis Frías, in his second option year, has plus arm strength and a deep enough repertoire that he has been developed as a starter so far, though he may debut in the bullpen.
This is Joe Mantiply’s third year with Arizona, where he enjoyed a two-tick fastball velocity increase in his first season, and a return to emphasis of his changeup in his second.
Taylor Widener, Caleb Smith, and Edwin Uceta all have starter pedigrees and should provide multiple innings in relief. Keynan Middleton once looked like a set-up type reliever before settling into fringe 40-man territory coming off of a 2018 Tommy John.
The shape of the movement of Trivino’s cutter and curveball became more distinct from one another in 2021, and it was the second consecutive year in which he spread his pitch usage more evenly across his four offerings. He’s an eventual trade candidate, but until then, he’s a steady, if unspectacular, closer option for the A’s.
Guerra arrived in Oakland last year on his seventh org since 2014 and had a career season amid similar changes to his pitch usage. He has an unpredictable four-pitch mix headlined by his excellent changeup.
Leviathan righty Domingo Acevedo — 6-foot-7, 240 pounds — fell off the Yankees roster after years of inconsistent, sometimes electric performance, and landed with the A’s on a minor league deal. He posted a dominant 32 innings at Triple-A last year before getting a cup of coffee late in September and October. His velo was down (92 mph) late in the year compared to while he was in Vegas (94 mph), but Acevedo also has good secondary stuff (both his slider and changeup) and could probably get by with fringe relief velo, but be really good if he ever sustains the mid-90s peaks he’s shown in the past. He’s a high-variance 28-year-old. So, too, are former Rule 5 pick (a couple of times) Dany Jiménez and two-down NFL linebacker Wandisson Charles, both of whom throw hard but have consistency issues.
Brent Honeywell and A.J. Puk are both former top prospects whose careers as mid-rotation starters were derailed by injury. Southpaw Sams Selman and Moll are part of a deep group of fringy lefties that also includes Adam Kolarek and the recently-acquired Kirby Snead.
Former top five pick Dillon Tate has had velo increases each of the last two seasons and is once again working in the 94-97 mph range from his prospect peak. His heater doesn’t miss bats, but both his changeup and slider do at plus-plus rates, which are up across the board since the new Orioles regime has taken root.
Lefty Paul Fry has a plus slider, which he locates with much more consistency than his fastball. Hard-throwing Cuban southpaw Cionel Pérez, still only 25, is reunited with Mike Elias (Pérez originally signed with Houston) in Baltimore. Jorge López has long had tantalizing stuff and issues with walks, and yet he’s been continuously miscast in a starting role for almost his entire career. If he moves to the bullpen full-time, there’s a small chance he has a breakout season.
Several relief prospects bubbling up here now. Bryan Baker was drafted by the Rockies and traded to Toronto as the PTBNL in the Seunghwan Oh 오승환 deal. He had brief big league time with the Jays late last year but was squeezed off the roster and claimed off waivers by Baltimore in November. He throws really hard, sitting 96-97 mph and touching 99, which is up two ticks from 2019 when he was only sitting 94. Felix Bautista is also in that vein, sitting 97-99 with 20-grade command. Logan Gillaspie was a high school catcher who has already had quite a baseball journey and will soon be a big leaguer. Signed out of Indy Ball, Gillaspie was sitting 94-97 last Fall, and has a four-pitch mix. Mike Baumann’s vicious slider will likely find it’s way to Camden Yards, and Kyle Bradish (who a scout source raved about this spring) is starting to feel more likely to debut as a starter.
The Rangers bullpen is comprised of a bevy of 20-somethings — some homegrown, some acquired by the pro scouting department — who might establish themselves as integral parts of the long-term relief corps, with a few seasoned vets on short-term deals sprinkled in.
The veterans are Garrett Richards and Greg Holland, who combine for three decades in pro ball. Richards should provide valuable length out of the ‘pen, which will be especially important early in the season due to the short runway for starters to get ready. He’s on a one-year deal with a 2023 option. Holland, on a straight one-year deal, will look to continue his career’s improbable, post-surgery second act. Either of them could end the summer on a contender if they pitch well.
Of the relievers in their prime, former college swingman Josh Sborz had a velo spike, added a curveball, and established himself as a core Ranger reliever last year. Joe Barlow ended the 2021 season as the club’s closer, though Chris Woodward told MLB.com last week that he’d prefer Barlow not close to start the year. By far the most consistent strike-throwing in Barlow’s career came during his combined 50 IP between Triple-A and the majors in 2021. He may be due for a regression in that area, but he does have good stuff. Slider monster Glen Otto, who came over from New York in the Joey Gallo deal and was among the swinging strike rate leaders in the upper levels of the minors last year, is the most likely to join Sborz as the bedrock of Woodward’s bullpen. Albert Abreu, acquired from the Yankees in a smaller deal just before the season, will show you three plus pitches and 30 control. He’s out of options.
Other young relievers who might find another gear in the big leagues include Demarcus Evans (whose fastball has huge carry, though he lacks a second good pitch), Nick Snyder (who has premium velocity), and shooting star prospects Spencer Howard and Ricky Vanasco, who have had their young careers stalled by injury. Vanasco looked great last fall coming off of surgery.
Until that group steps up, veteran Spencer Patton (in his second season back from Japan) and three-pitch lefty Brett Martin figure to be the more reliable middle-inning guys. Dennis Santana (like Sborz, a former Dodgers prospect) and John King have missed fewer bats than expected during their prospect days. Former first overall pick (as a shortstop) Matt Bush will continue his second act as a big league reliever.
José Leclerc and Jonathan Hernández had Tommy John in March and April of last year, respectively, and could be back in the middle of the 2022 season, potentially before the trade deadline. That’s more relevant for backfield rehab scouting target Leclerc, who has a pair of team options in 2023 and ’24. Hernández has the stuff to be an impact late-inning arm if he can harness it.
Alex Colomé, who is on a one-year deal, rode his cutter and a straight fastball to a half-decade of rock solid eighth inning duty. His velocity has been trending down for the last few years and has lost about a tick-and-a-half from its peak.
The 6-foot-6, 277-pound Carlos Estévez’s release point changed throughout the 2019 season, and his fastball has featured more sink since then. In 2021, his arm strength climbed back to its pinnacle throughout the season, peaking in the 99-101 mph range late in the year. He’s also upped his changeup usage in two consecutive seasons and now has three pitches generating something close to the league-average swinging strike rate. He’s out of the gate sitting 93-95 mph early in the spring of 2022.
Daniel Bard has come into spring training with his usual upper-90s gas, sitting 97 mph at age 36. He’s upped his slider usage year-over-year for the last three seasons and is now at the point where he is using it about as often as his fastball. All three of Bard, Estévez, and Colomé are in their contract years and are candidates to move at the deadline, making all three key evaluation targets for contending teams.
Robert Stephenson came over from Cincinnati as part of a fairly sizable trade centered around him and Jeff Hoffman, and enjoyed a huge velo spike. He had become extremely slider-heavy with the Reds but returned to a more even fastball/slider split, and reintroduced the occasional curveball and changeup to his repertoire. He’s come out pumping 96-97 mph this spring.
Veteran Jhoulys Chacín will provide valuable length out of the bullpen, and it seemed as though the same might be asked of lefty Ty Blach, he of local powerhouse high school Regis Jesuit. The Rockies stretched Blach out to three innings early in the spring before deploying him in single-inning outings more recently. He is coming off of TJ.
Most of the rest of this bullpen is full of pitchers who either don’t miss as many bats as you might guess given their velocity and the visual explosiveness of their stuff (Tyler Kinley, Julian Fernández, Jordan Sheffield, Justin Lawrence), or have been unable to sustain impact arm strength for extended periods (Ben Bowden, Lucas Gilbreath). Gilbreath was a 2020 instructs breakout lefty who sat 93-96 mph that fall, but he’s been more 90-93 since. Lawrence is one of the hardest throwing sidearmers in the league, sitting 97 mph. Gilbreath, Sheffield, and Lawrence are the three guys most likely to be in Denver for the long haul as all of them only have a year or less of service time. Lefty Helcris Olivarez, 21, is also on the 40-man and is in his second option year. He’s so raw as a strike-thrower that he may be ‘penned at some point this year and end up getting a late-season cup of coffee.
Current work on the team-by-team prospect lists is being complemented by lots of live looks in Arizona as we work on the West Valley cluster of teams (Reds/Guardians/Dodgers/White Sox), so the info in those lists is fresh out of the oven. As I’ve been targeting teams with West Valley facilities who come east and talked to scouts on my side of town, some players have popped up this spring from clubs whose prospect lists we’ve already done, and I’m not wasting time adding them to their org lists just because others aren’t finished. Those changes are noted beneath some notes on Daniel Espino and are indicated on The Board’s “Trend” column, as they’re the only players to have “up” arrows at this stage.
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Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Tampa Bay Rays. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the second year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers.