Daily Prospect Notes: 9/2/21 by Tess Taruskin September 2, 2021 These are notes on prospects from Tess Taruskin. Read previous installments of the Daily Prospect Notes here. Robert Hassell III, CF, San Diego Padres Level & Affiliate: High-A Fort Wayne Age: 20 Org Rank: 4 (72 overall) FV: 50 Line: 3-for-6, 3 HR, 3 K Notes On Wednesday night, true to his name, Hassell worked in threes. In his third game since his promotion from Low-A (where he had the third most hits and third highest average on the season), the lefty provided both homers and strikeouts in triplicate. But contrary to last night’s line, the 2020 first-rounder’s season has been characterized neither by excessive power nor a concerning K-rate; he slashed .323/.415/.482 at Low-A with a 138 wRC+, maintaining walk and strikeout rates both in the mid-teens. While the Wednesday whiffs represent an unconcerning blip in an approach that has otherwise proven far more advanced than his age would let on (he just turned 20 a few weeks ago), the dingers — his first, second, and third at High-A — were a glimpse at the type of power that would be a welcome addition to Hassell’s profile, if he’s able to sustain it. Over the course of the night, he demonstrated his ability to hit balls out to both left and right field, and against both left- and right-handed pitchers. Hyun-Il Choi, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers Level & Affiliate: High-A Great Lakes Age: 21 Org Rank: 17 FV: 40+ Line: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 4 K Notes You may have noticed in the GIF above that Hassell’s first homer didn’t come until the fifth inning. Before that, he struck out swinging twice against Choi, but the righty wasn’t able to keep the rest of Fort Wayne’s lineup at bay, giving up a season-high eight hits. More reassuring was the zero in the walk column, which hopefully indicates a return to the unflinching command that had become his standard at Low-A, where he walked just seven batters in his 65.1 innings of work, good for a microscopic 2.8% walk rate, before his early-August promotion. In his last three starts before Wednesday’s contest, however, he nearly matched that season total, issuing six free passes in just 13.2 innings. On Wednesday, Choi’s struggles had more to do with his inability to miss bats in the zone, rather than missing the zone itself, which could conceivably (and perhaps correctly) be interpreted as swapping out one problem for another. If he can harness his splitter as a more consistent out pitch, I’m willing to chalk this rough patch up to growing pains. Joe Gray Jr., OF, Milwaukee Brewers Level & Affiliate: High-A Wisconsin Age: 21 Org Rank: 12 FV: 40+ Line: 2-for-4, K, SB Notes Gray swiped his 20th base on Wednesday, becoming the seventh minor leaguer this year to join the 20–20 club after hitting his 20th home run the night before. He has more strikeouts than anyone else on that list, which is to be expected given his extreme uppercut swing, but more concerning is the fact that his walk rate has taken a dip since his mid-July promotion to High-A. His approach will need refining if he wants to tip the scales away from risk and toward reward. Chris Vallimont, RHP, Minnesota Twins Level & Affiliate: Double-A Wichita Age: 24 Org Rank: 20 FV: 40 Line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 9 K Notes Wednesday marked the third time Vallimont has matched his season high in strikeouts, though this time those whiffs were paired with more walks than he’d issued in those other two games. Indeed, the free passes have been up in general, as he’s running a walk rate just south of 14% on the season, up from 8.2% in 2019. That said, Vallimont is striking out more hitters this year than in the past as well, bumping his K-rate up from 29.8% to 32.8%, and he continues to mix two distinct breaking balls — a sharp horizontal slider and a vertically-breaking curveball. That bodes well for his continued development as a potential back-end reliever. Garrett Hill, RHP, Detroit Tigers Level & Affiliate: Double-A Erie Age: 25 Org Rank: NR FV: 35 Line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K Notes In his second start since being promoted, Hill looked more like himself than he had in his Double-A debut, when he gave up just his third homer of the season. In fact, before his promotion, he boasted one of the lowest HR/FB percentages in all of the minor leagues at just 3.8%. On Wednesday, his two hits allowed were both grounders — much more in keeping with his historically high ground-ball rate. His command faltered slightly in the second inning, as he walked two batters to load the bases, but he quickly got out of that jam and went on to retire the next ten batters in a row. He works fast and with an effortless delivery to eat up innings, which pairs well with that penchant for inducing grounders.