Prospect Notes: Updating the East Valley Clubs

Jonah Bride
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

You can read previous installments of our prospect notes here.

I’m touching up prospect lists using the same complex-based clustering as usual, incorporating notes from my in-person looks, sourced data, and the opinions of pro scouts. Up is the group of teams based in Phoenix’s East Valley, with a focus on the Cubs largely due to the depth of their system, making them the team most likely to be motivated to part with prospects between now and the trade deadline. Players whose Future Value grade changed have an “Up” or “Down” arrow in the “Trend” column on The Board.

Oakland Athletics

Jonah Bride and Jordan Diaz move into the 40+ FV tier on the strength of their bat-to-ball skills. Bride, who recently made his big league debut and is currently on the IL, is a recent (part-time) catching convert who would be stuffed in the 45 FV tier if his ball-blocking and receiving had progressed more quickly and I felt more confident that he could catch often. It’s still possible that he could turn into a role player with this sort of special versatility if his defense behind the plate continues to improve, but because he can hit, Bride is at least going to be a solid part-time infielder, with third base his most natural position.

The long-term athletic projection concerns that have been a part of the 21-year-old Diaz’s profile for the duration of his young career continue to apply, and it counterweights the fact that he’s performing so well (.293/.342/.537, a 121 wRC+ as of Tuesday) as a college-aged hitter at Double-A. But Midland isn’t exactly hitter-friendly, and his feel for contact is freaky enough to value him as more than just a corner bench player.

Mason Miller (scap strain) hasn’t pitched all year after sitting upper-90s with a plus slider during late-2021 looks in Mesa. Neither has titanic 23-year-old righty Jorge Juan, due to a multitude of issues. In addition to elbow treatment, he has had setbacks unrelated to the original injury while rehabbing. He was DFA’d and re-signed to a minor league deal after being a bold, surprising 40-man add in the offseason.

A-ball righties Blake Beers (plus slider, late-bloomer traits, a great day three draft find) and Yehizon Sanchez (lanky, above-average arm strength and curveball) have been added to the A’s prospect list, and their full scouting reports are available over on The Board.

Recent high-profile international signees Robert Puason and Pedro Pineda move down. The former has been demoted back to the Complex and has stopped switch-hitting. While his issues with contact were apparent very early upon his initial arrival in the U.S. (before he had even played an actual game), things have been rougher for him than feared. Fingers crossed things come together for him to some degree. I stayed on Pineda for longer than Puason, despite his swing-and-miss issues in his first pro season, because I thought his swing would still allow him to get to huge power even if he made below-average contact. But he’s punching out at a 40% clip, and that’s terrifying at this low a level.

Gunnar Hoglund, 2021 draftee and Matt Chapman trade piece, is likely to return from Tommy John surgery and pitch in his first pro game within the next couple of weeks.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs’ system is defined by injuries, both those who have suffered them or those who have returned. Top prospect Brennen Davis (vascular malformation in his back), outfielder Christian Franklin (torn patellar tendon) and shortstop Ed Howard (hip) have had season-ending injuries/surgeries, and projectable teenage pitcher Drew Gray had Tommy John. Davis’ injury is not a typical baseball issue, and it’s hard to know how to weigh it as part of his overall profile. For now, I’ve applied my standard “slide this guy to the back of his FV tier” adjustment to Davis within the Top 100, and the same goes for Howard, Franklin, and Gray within the system.

Alexander Vizcaíno has been on the restricted list for several months with no given reason, and he was still in the Dominican Republic as of a few weeks ago, per his social media. After checking with sources close to the Cubs and within the org and some scouts who cover their system, I can’t find anyone who knows what’s going on here — or at least, nobody who will tell me. Vizcaino has set-up man stuff, but if we think about how to line him up based on the weight he’d carry in a trade right now, he belongs more in a “flier” area than in the 45 FV tier; most folks seem totally in the dark with regard to his absence.

Greg Deichmann’s plate discipline didn’t follow him to the upper levels, and even though his raw power is huge, he needed that aspect of offense to help support a profile at the bottom of the defensive spectrum. The Cubs waived him to clear a 40-man spot, and he slides here. Some other sliders: Burl Carraway was struggling badly to throw strikes again before he was shut down with an elbow fracture. Anderson Espinoza has pared his repertoire to two pitches and looks like an up/down reliever at this point. Cayne Ueckert’s strike-throwing issues bucket him in that realm for now, too. For newbies, you can see whose FV grade changed since the last update via the up and down arrows on the Cubs list.

Now for some good news. There are many key Cubs pitching prospects who are coming off of an early-season injury, and most of them are throwing very well. Zac Leigh has been up to 97, Ryan Jensen is sitting 95–96 and up to 99 with improved slider quality, Riley Thompson has been 94–96, and Yovanny Cruz (re-added to the list after falling off due to many injuries) is back in the 96–98 range and has touched 100. Many of the pitching prospects in this system are on track for a big league opportunity during the next two years.

Elusive recent high school draftee Koen Moreno was extremely wild during his pro debut, which is perhaps why he had not yet pitched in games until last week. He sat about 93, and his breaking balls had elite spin, but he looked like a Jose Albertos sequel from a control standpoint.

Slugging first baseman Matt Mervis and pitchability righty Chris Clarke have been added. Head over to The Board for their scouting reports and pitch/tool grades.

Los Angeles Angels

Of the large contingent of teenagers from last year’s Angels Complex group, it’s Edgar Quero who has emerged as the one with the best chance to develop meaningful bat-to-ball ability. Werner Blakely, who looked good from an eyeball scouting standpoint all throughout 2021 even though he hit under the Mendoza Line, is starting to lay down impressive early-career plate discipline performance, and he’s been on a throwing program which, if it takes, clears the biggest hurdle between him and potentially special third base defense. Those two move into the 40+ tier and are primed for another leap with continued performance and promotion.

The fact that Chase Silseth raced to the big leagues as fast as he did isn’t, on its own, a reason to change the way he lines up on the Angels list. But all of his pitches are up a couple of ticks in terms of velocity, his delivery does seem to have less cross-body action than it did while he was in college, and it appears the Angels have re-emphasized a splitter that the University of Arizona hit the brakes on after he transferred there from Southern Nevada. His fastball shape isn’t great, but it plays against hitters who struggle against velo on its own, which gives Silseth three pitches with bat-missing ability. He moves into the 45 FV tier, ahead of Sam Bachman, last year’s first rounder whose velo is way down (best bolt has been 96 this year) compared to his college peak.

Austin Warren slides a tier due to repeated injury. Jose Salvador slides purely as an over-evaluation correction on my part, and he’s now in the up/down relief FV bucket. Mason Erla looks healthy and is sitting 94–97 with huge tailing action. Coleman Crow, Walbert Urena (a teenager up to 100), and Michael Stefanic have been added, with full reports on The Board.

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 Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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1 year ago

Nothing on Brett Harris for the A’s? I know he’s old but already in AA and doing well as a supposedly glove first college guy?

1 year ago
Reply to  higginsford

Adding to the ‘what about that guy’ list, I’d have loved to hear an update on Owen Caissie. Young (or at least inexperienced) for the level, ice cold start, warming up lately, looks like he’s validating the aggressive assignment – but that’s just me scouting the stat line.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cromulent

Eric had a pretty aggressive grade on Caissie to begin with. It’s possible that he’s meeting Eric’s expectations of a guy with a lot of rawness and tools and upside and it didn’t occur to him to talk about it more.

Left of Centerfield
1 year ago
Reply to  higginsford

Harris has a 113 wRC+ as a 24 year old in AA. Good defense, if true helps, but the bat doesn’t look like much. I could see him as a 35 or 35+ but not much more