Daily Prospect Notes: 8/13/21

These are notes on prospects from Tess Taruskin. Read previous installments of the Daily Prospect Notes here.

A month after the draft, here are some early looks at a few members of the 2021 draft class as they launch their professional careers.

Ryan Cusick, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Augusta Age: 21 Org Rank: 7 FV: 45
Line: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 7 K

Cusick’s started his professional career with two consecutive 98 mph strikes, setting the tone for what would be an impressive minor league debut. The 24th overall pick of the 2021 draft struck out seven of the nine of the batters he retired, and was one scorching liner off his third baseman’s glove away from perfection over his three innings of work. His success was due largely and unsurprisingly to his fastball, a high-90s offering delivered from a high arm slot (Cusick is an imposing 6-foot-6) that proved too much for the struggling Kannapolis offense.

In addition to the four-seamer, Cusick sprinkled in a few slurvy breaking balls, most of which missed the zone, though some missed bats as well. His arsenal also includes a changeup that he rarely threw during his time at Wake Forest, but which was a major developmental focus during last year’s shutdown; it did not make an appearance in his pro debut.

His first professional strikeout may serve to highlight his potential path to becoming a big-league starter. He quickly went up 0-2, getting second baseman Samil Polanco to swing at two four-seamers, but Polanco went on to foul off the next four fastballs, all of which clocked in between 97-100 mph. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Cusick got the lefty Polanco to swing at a breaker in the dirt to finally record the out.

The moral of the story? His heater will likely be fierce enough to mow through hitters at the lower levels of the minors, but when he reaches levels of competition where batters are better adapted to that type of heat, Cusick will be tasked with adapting in turn and honing the command of his secondaries to effectively miss bats. Otherwise, his more likely future role will be out of the ‘pen.

Cal Conley, IF, Atlanta Braves
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Augusta Age: 22 Org Rank: 20 FV: 40
Line: 2-for-5, HR, K

Cusick wasn’t the only member of the 2021 draft class on the field for Augusta; fourth round pick Cal Conley led off for the GreenJackets on Thursday. The switch-hitter struggled to find his groove in his first five games at Low-A, but his bat came alive in his first plate appearance of the evening, when he sent an absolute no-doubter out to right.

That jack and his two-run single up the middle both came from the left side of the plate, as did his strikeout later in the game. In his only at-bat from the right side, he flailed at the first pitch he saw, popping out to shallow right.

Zack Gelof, IF, Oakland Athletics
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Stockton Age: 21 Org Rank: 14 FV: 40
Line: 1-for-4, 3B, K

The A’s 2021 second-round pick has hit safely in all three of his games at Low-A Stockton so far. On Thursday, the infielder was in the DH slot, and in the fifth, he roped a well-placed fly ball into the alley in right-center to leg out a triple. He runs very well for his size and beat out the throw from outfielder Zac Veen easily. Though he didn’t walk in the game, he was able to display a discerning eye at the plate, laying off breaking balls that may well have enticed other hitters of a similar level of experience. It’ll be interesting to see how Gelof develops as a hitter, coming from a UVA program that focused more on contact than power.

Tanner Allen, OF, Miami Marlins
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Jupiter Age: 23 Org Rank: 46 FV: 35+
Line: 0-for-2, BB

Allen’s professional career has gotten off to a slow start, with the outfielder having accrued only two hits (both singles) in his first seven games with the club. Though his bat stayed cold on his hitless Thursday night, he was able to pull off the unlikely feats of reaching base twice (a walk and a hit-by-pitch) and racking up two RBI (a sac fly and a bases-loaded fielders choice). Of course, this is not a sustainable path to long-term success, and Allen will feel pressure to adapt quickly – at 23, he’s relatively old for Low-A – but this type of game will hopefully keep his spirits afloat, even if it has the reverse affect on his small-sample slash line.

Other Notes:
Shifting away from the class of 2021, last night the South Bend Cubs threw a combined no-hitter, with righties Alexander Vizcaíno and Joe Nahas and southpaw Burl Carraway teaming up for 10 strikeouts and only two walks in their 3-0 victory over the Padres’ High-A affiliate, the Fort Wayne TinCaps. At Double-A, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene continued their dominant seasons by putting on a show – a double-feature, in fact – in Erie’s two-game sweep against the Altoona Curve. In the double-header, Torkelson went 7-for-7 with three home runs, while Greene led off and went 3-for-8 with two jacks. Bear in mind, each of these games was only seven innings long and Erie, the home team, won both without having to bat in the bottom of the seventh, resulting in even fewer offensive frames for Greene and Torkelson to work with, making that production all the more impressive.

Tess is a contributor at FanGraphs. When she's not watching college or professional baseball, she works as a sports video editor, creating highlight reels for high school athletes. She can be found on Twitter at @tesstass.

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1 year ago

Everson Pereira deserves a note as well. He went 5-5 with 2 HR last night. He’s been mashing across two levels of A ball at 20 years old. He was rumored to be in the Joey Gallo deal.