Daily Prospect Notes: 9/14/2021

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

Games on 9/12

Mason Fox, RHP, San Diego Padres
Level & Affiliate: Double-A San Antonio Age: 21 Org Rank: 38 FV: 35+
1 IP, 3 K

Fox’s previously dominant fastball (he had a 0.55 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 2019, mostly in short-season ball) wasn’t as nasty during the spring. Sitting in the low-90s, he struggled and was shut down, and was put on the Development List for most of July and August. Back for about three weeks now, his fastball velocity has more often been in the 93-95 range again, though his curveball still lacks bat-missing power and depth. Because 2021 is his roster evaluation year (either he’s put on the 40-man or subject to the Rule 5 Draft in December) and because he’s thrown so few innings so far this season, the Arizona Fall league is perhaps a logical assignment for Fox and the Padres.

Jackson Rutledge, RHP, Washington Nationals
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Fredricksburg Age: 22 Org Rank: 5 FV: 45+
4 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 R, 4 K

Speaking of other potential Fall League candidates (I’m drawing logical conclusions here, not reporting anything or leaking dope), Jackson Rutledge has struggled to take the ball every fifth day because of an early-season shoulder injury, and more recently, recurring blister issues. Sunday was Rutledge’s third blister-free start since his most recent activation. He’s sitting in the 94-98 range since returning, with his stuff intact coming off those dreaded shoulder issues. Obviously context is important here (it’s not as if Rutledge has gone every fifth day all year and is sitting 94-98), but that’s an encouraging sign for his health. Having amassed just 32 innings this season, Rutledge is a prime Fall League candidate.

Po-Yu Chen, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Level & Affiliate: Low-A Bradenton Age: 19 Org Rank: 50 FV: 35+
7 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 0 R, 6 K

The 19-year-old Chen didn’t walk a single hitter in any of his six mid-summer Complex Level starts before his recent promotion to Low-A. He generated 15 whiffs on Sunday — mixed evenly among his sinker, curveball, and changeup — even though he only sat 86-90. Chen’s delivery is fluid and graceful, and he has very advanced feel to pitch for a teenager, with especially precocious changeup consistency. His breaking ball has depth but lacks power, and Chen needs to find more arm strength generally to be any kind of impact starter. Of the ingredients that indicate that’s possible, he has the looseness and athleticism component, but not the obvious physical projection piece.

Jay Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Level & Affiliate: Double-A Portland Age: 23 Org Rank: 13 FV: 40+
6 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 9 K

Groome has made two dominant starts at Double-A since his promotion, striking out 19 and walking just one in 11 innings of work for Portland. He’s been living in the 91-96 range, imparting rise and tail on the fastball. Neither his trademark curveball nor new-ish slider (which has such curt movement that it’s sometimes identified as a cutter) has looked especially nasty despite Groome’s overall performance, and I don’t think he’s an imminent threat to provide big-league reinforcement the rest of this year even though he’s on the 40-man. He does, however, look positioned to compete for an Opening Day roster spot next spring; 2022 is his second option year.

Games on 9/13

Harry Ford, C, Seattle Mariners
Level & Affiliate: Complex Level Age: 18 Org Rank: 6 FV: 45
3-for-5, 2B, HR

The ultra-toolsy Ford not only put one out in the left/center field power alley last night, but he also ran 4.10 to first on a sixth-inning groundout and 4.35 with the turn during a seventh-inning double. Those a 70-grade times. I have never seen a catcher this fast. His receiving is a little rough around the edges and Ford’s arm strength is a shade below average, but he’s a willing and athletic ball-blocker who has a non-zero chance to catch. For the last week he has been white-hot for the Arizona Mariners — 11-for-25 with three homers — who, at 39-15, play the de facto Arizona Complex League Championship Game tonight against the 39-16 Rockies. I’m personally bummed the ACL kids don’t get to have their usual playoff bracket this year.

Brennan Malone, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Level & Affiliate: Complex Level Age: 21 Org Rank: 12 FV: 45
3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 5 K

A former sandwich round pick of Arizona traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Starling Marte deal, Malone missed a couple of months with a strained lat. He’s been back for about five weeks, slowly building his in-game workload up to three innings. Last night was by far his best outing of the year, though his pre-injury arm strength has been back for a while now (93-96) and the Pirates seem to have found a way to increase his breaking ball spin rate pretty significantly: according to a source, it’s up from 2,300 rpm in 2019 to 2,900 rpm now.

Hunter Brown, RHP, Houston Astros
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Sugar Land Age: 23 Org Rank: 3 FV: 50
6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 R, 6 K

Brown made the back of the offseason Top 100 on the strength of his instructs look, and while he’s still capable of missing bats with all four of his pitches, he isn’t showing quite the same arm strength he was in the Fall here toward the end of the year. Per Synergy Sports, he’s sitting more in the 92-93 mph range during his Triple-A outings. The fact that this is a Division-II prospect in his first full season of pro experience who has already reached Triple-A is encouraging, and I don’t think Brown is going to fall out of our 50 FV tier since we’re still talking about four potential impact pitches (even at this velocity, his fastball has bat-missing angle). But assuming he lives in the low-to-mid 90s going forward, it becomes more imperative that he develop better command than he has now to attain that sort of outcome.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Bruce Schwindtmember
1 year ago

It will be very interesting to see how long before Ford is moved to the outfield, since his bat appears likely to get him to majors well before his catching