Daily Prospect Notes: NL Postseason Pitching on the Way

I recently sourced scouting info and wrote about prospects (and rehabbing veterans) who contending American League teams have on the way during the season’s final stretch, players young and old who lurk beneath the big league surface and might yet make an impact on who hoists the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the season. Today, I examine the National League.

NL East
I have very little to pass along regarding the Braves. Their Triple-A pitchers on the 40-man (Kyle Wright, Kyle Muller, Tanner Roark) have been up and down throughout the year and they haven’t looked appreciably different since they were last up. Chris Martin and Josh Tomlin went on the injured list very recently and haven’t had a chance to rehab yet. The same goes for Jasseel De La Cruz, who had several rough starts in August before hitting the IL. Yoan López, acquired from the Diamondbacks earlier in the year, has been sitting 95-98 with Triple-A Gwinnett, but his fastball’s lack of movement means it doesn’t miss many bats. His slider is still plus when located properly, though. He’s the lone 40-man member in Gwinnett’s bullpen, though Dylan Lee (throwing strikes, up to 96, lots of in-zone fastball whiffs) has out-pitched him, and Jesse Biddle and Víctor Arano both generate more whiffs than López does. They all might be ahead of him in the pecking order for big league time in case of injury, even if it means making a 40-man move.

The Phillies have a mix of rehabbers and prospects lurking in the minors, with the prospects presenting low-impact/emergency options right now. Young Francisco Morales (who has projected as a reliever for us at FG since signing) has struggled as a starter all year at Double-A Reading, walking 59 in 70 innings pitched. He doesn’t seem to be on the fast track, even in a bullpen role.

Cristopher Sánchez (90-95, average slider and changeup) has been a groundball machine all year (57.1% groundball rate) but his statline has been reliever-y, especially lately (25 IP, 14 BB, 34 K since August). He could be a three- or four-inning option right now if something befalls a big league starter. Lefty Damon Jones has also induced a lot of groundballs but he and several other older, upper-level relievers (Zach Warren, Kyle Dohy) have had severe walk issues. They appear to be on the 40-man bubble entering the offseason. Former Top 100 prospect Adonis Medina hasn’t developed the command to compensate for his loss in velocity and sub-optimal fastball shape, and he’s only posted a 7.32 K/9 in Allentown. I think the Phillies should consider Hans Crouse as a potential late addition to their big league efforts. He’s got the highest swinging strike rate of any upper-level Phillies minor leaguer except for Warren, but Crouse isn’t walking nearly a batter per inning like Warren is. Crouse would have to be added to the 40-man roster to facilitate this, but he was already set to be added this December. Plus, part of what Crouse brings to the table as a prospect is a certain on-mound makeup and intensity that, all else equal, I’d rather have than not from a young player thrust into the limelight.

Of the rehabbers are big names Vince Velasquez and Seranthony Domínguez. Velasquez’s stuff has not returned to pre-injury levels. He had lost nearly two ticks of velo between his peak early-June outings and when he was shut down, and during rehab games he’s again been in the 91-94 range rather than sitting parked around 94. Velasquez’s fastball induced zero swings and misses during his September 2 start at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and he didn’t have great feel for locating anything during that three-inning outing. He’s been rehabbing since mid-August and is still pitching with suppressed stuff, so he’s not a lock to make a meaningful impact in Philly for the last few weeks.

Domínguez is at least throwing hard, sitting 93-96, though that’s below his pre-injury levels when he was sitting 97-99. His fastball’s movement has also changed and now lacks the Clase-esque cut that it had before Domínguez got hurt a couple of years ago, culminating in Tommy John midway through 2020. Domínguez’s usage has been very fastball-heavy during his Triple-A rehab, and many of them have two-seam shape rather than cut, though his slider looked good in his last two outings during which he struck out four across two innings. He looks like a viable middle-inning option right now. I’m not sure what to make of the change in his fastball’s movement, though it’d be helpful to know if it was an intentional tweak or just something that’s occurred naturally as he’s come out of rehab. His delivery doesn’t look any different to me.

He’s not likely to play a role for the Phillies unless injuries force a promotion, but the club took a shot on Tyler Phillips, who fell off the Rangers 40-man roster in August. Phillips was once a strike-throwing changeup artist who looked like a quick-moving fourth or fifth starter. He’s made four starts for Philly since they acquired him. His arm action has shortened up, his release point has changed, and Phillips has worked more exclusively with four-seam fastballs this year rather than a mix of four- and two-seamers. The life on his changeup has regressed. He’s an interesting reclamation project for the Phils but not a viable stretch run contributor.

The rival Mets have many more injuries, most of which are season-ending, or at least season-threatening. Jordan Yamamoto, who is rehabbing in A-ball coming back from a shoulder injury, is a deep depth option in case of injury. He’s looked like his usual self from an arm strength perspective, sitting 89-92 with a bevy of secondaries (cutter, changeup, curveball), though his spin rates have dipped compared to before he was shut down.

Noah Syndergaard sat 92-95 in his single inning of work on August 26, before he tested positive for COVID. If and when he returns from that, his repertoire will be limited. Mets team president Sandy Alderson revealed yesterday that Jacob deGrom had a partial tear of his right UCL, which Alderson described to reporters as having resolved itself. The right-hander is reportedly on track to resume throwing soon, though even the best-case scenario likely only involves very limited (and abbreviated) action later this month.

NL Central
Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty (shoulder) resumed playing catch during Labor Day weekend. Wade LeBlanc was scheduled to throw a bullpen over the weekend, but that was pushed back. Dakota Hudson had Tommy John late during the summer of 2020 and it’s pretty remarkable that he’s already back at all, let alone closing in on the big leagues during a sneaky Wild Card run by the Cardinals. In three rehab outings, he’s thrown 24, 43, and most recently 46 pitches in last night’s game, sitting in the 91-94 range during his previous two outings, about where he was when last healthy and in the big leagues. He’s mixed in his entire repertoire, sprinkling in cutters and curveballs early, then changeups late.

Angel Rondón was up for two innings as a reliever in June but he’s been pitching as a starter at Triple-A Memphis for most of the last two months, working with an average changeup and curveball, and a fastball with fairly hittable angle. He’s not a clear upgrade to any of St. Louis’ optionable relievers.

The Brewers two recent rehabbers — Justin Topa and Jandel Gustave — both recently came off the IL, and Topa has already gone back on. His stuff was the same as it was in mid-August before his initial IL stint: 97-98 with sink and a 2500 rpm slider with entirely lateral action. Gustave is also a sinker/slider guy who sits 94-96.

He’s not on the 40-man yet, but 45 FV prospect Ethan Small has built from one, to two, to three innings of work at Triple-A since starting rehab on August 24. He sat 92-93 with his trademark changeup resting in the 77-79 range during his Complex Level start that night, and since then he’s used more of his upper 70s slider and low-70s curve, the latter of which has been spinning at about 2700 rpm. Small doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man until 2022, so it might take quite a bit of chaos for the Brewers to add him to the roster, unless he looks utterly dominant over the next few weeks and is definitely one of the best pitchers in the org.

The Wild Card pursuant Reds have a potential high-leverage bullpen weapon locked and loaded in Hunter Greene. Remember how Greene’s posture had changed and his arm slot had dropped to well below his pre-TJ look at last year’s alt site? Well, it’s back up again, and Greene is among the qualified, upper-level leaders in swinging strike rate.

He’s done that while regularly sitting 99-100 the past two or three games at Triple-A, which is actually up from the 97-98 range in which he sat earlier in the year. Still mostly a two-pitch guy (his slider rests in the 87-90 range at 2400 rpm and generates whiffs at a better rate than his heater), Greene could be a premium reliever tomorrow if the Reds needed him to be, and they have an open 40-man spot as this post goes live. He’s accumulated just shy of 100 total innings this year, up from the 68 he threw in 2019. I don’t know if he’s on a capped innings limit, if the Reds want to manage his workload with next year in mind, or if his total lack of experience in the bullpen is a barrier, but he’s inarguably one of the best dozen or so arms in the org and could have a huge playoff impact.

Riley O’Brien has been starting at Triple-A Louisville all year and is already on the 40-man. When you look at his entire season, O’Brien has issued walks consistent with his career norms (which funnel him toward relief) but some outings have been much worse than others; he allowed seven of them in his last outing. But O’Brien sits 93-95 with more cut life than carry, he has a power slurve in the 80-84 and he kills spin (a splittery 1500 rpm) on a hard, upper-80s changeup. He could also be a bullpen piece down the stretch.

NL West
Padres lefty MacKenzie Gore has made four starts with his reworked delivery and was promoted to Double-A after his most recent one.

Adrian Martinez seems to also have been in consideration for spot start duty after posting a 2.34 ERA at Double-A during the first half, though he’s been knocked around since he was promoted to hitter-friendly Triple-A El Paso. He sits 92-94 with two-seam movement and generates huge depth on a high-spin changeup. Martinez presents hitters with an odd mechanical look since he opens his front side so much and has such a low slot. He’s a depth/spot start candidate but not really a long-term active roster prospect.

More impactful short- and long-term pieces are Dinelson Lamet and Trey Wingenter, both of whom have been sitting in the 94-97 range with their fastballs during rehab outings. Lamet has made two big league appearances in the last week while Wingenter hasn’t pitched in a game for a while due to weather disruptions at his affiliates. Though Lamet’s stuff looks, on paper, exactly the same as before his injury, Wingenter’s arm slot may have dropped a little bit. He’s returning from a Tommy John that took place in mid-2020.

For the Dodgers, future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw’s fastball sat mostly 89-91 last night and touched 93 in a 3-inning, 50-pitch rehab start at Triple-A Oklahoma City.





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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gtagomori
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gtagomori

Thank Eric. Someday can you envision an article examining how teams might be using the DL to create rotating 15 man bullpens?

What do you think of an expanded roster of 30-32 players active and traveling, but with game time scratches like
Hockey does?