MLB Prospect Watch: 15 National League minor leaguers start impressively, including Pirates’ Henry Davis

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By Webdesk

RHP Dylan Ray: The Diamondbacks took a calculated risk last summer when they drafted Ray in the fourth round. So far it works in their favour. Ray had missed significant development time in recent years due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery that limited him to 31 innings last season. Those lost reps haven’t stopped him from posting a 34.2% strikeout-minus-walk percentage in his first four starts in High-A. Ray has the arsenal (lead by a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a carry), so it’s up to his ever-nasty ligaments to keep their part of the bargain. HH Ignacio Alvarez: Alvarez has started his first full pro season with a 2.56 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 96 trips to the plate. That’s especially impressive considering he’s a 20-year-old infielder on the left who’s doing it in High-A, where his opponents average more than two years older than him. Alvarez’s ability to stay at shortstop and rise to power will determine his future status. For now, he is putting himself on the map after being selected in the fifth round last summer. RHP Ben Brown: The Cubs picked up Brown, a tall right-hander with good stuff, in a trade with the Phillies’ final deadline abandoning veteran reliever David Robertson. The deal was understandable on the part of the Phillies – they tried to make it to the postseason, and they succeeded, and they went all the way to the World Series – but it has the potential to be a big winner for the Cubs . Brown bullied Double-A batters in four starts, with a standout 0.45 ERA and a 13.5 strikeout per nine before being promoted to Iowa. He is only a heartbeat away from his big league-debut. LHP Andrew Abbott: Abbott spent most of his collegiate career in Virginia, pitching from the bullpen. He was given a chance to start his draft year, and he showed enough to convince the Reds to select him at number 53 that summer. Now he’s approaching the majors – and fast. Abbott has split between Double- and Triple-A this season, striking out 54% of the batters in his first 25 innings. He mainly attacks batters with a low-90s fastball and a breaking ball. Abbott’s fastball is more effective than raw speed suggests, as it gets farther down the hill than his 6-foot frame is likely to suggest. That, in turn, creates a deeper, flatter point of release that allows the natural rise of its heating to play. All this to say: keep an eye out for Abbott and his fastball when he gets the call this summer. 3B/OF Sterlin Thompson: The Rockies selected Thompson last summer with the 31st pick based on his approach and sense of touch. He has so far lived up to the ad to begin his first full pro season, hitting .463 with more walks than strikeouts (as well as one of the lowest sniffing percentages in the organization) in 18 games at High-A. The most interesting aspect of Thompson’s season was his position. He split his days between the infield and outfield at the University of Florida, with most reviewers predicting a full-time move to the grass after he was drafted. The Rockies, as they are used to doing, have gone the other way, with Thompson playing only third base so far this season. We’ll see if he can somehow make it work. R. H. P. Emmet Sheehan: Sheehan had a career 4.80 ERA at Boston College, despite a promising fastball substitution combination. Since then, he’s spent nearly two years in the Dodgers system after arriving as a sixth-round pick, which means you shouldn’t be surprised to read the following sentence: He struck out 35 of the 78 Double-A batters that he faced this season, a rate that translates to 16.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Yowza. Clearly, Sheehan has some good stuff; the question facing him now, and moving forward, is whether his deliberate operation will allow him to launch enough attacks to maximize its power. FROM Peyton Burdick: Burdick, 26, is one of the older players referenced in this piece. He deserves the spotlight (or however this entry can be described) because he smokes the ball when he makes contact. That is, nearly 64% of his batted balls this season had an exit speed of 95 mph or higher. The reason he’s only just joined Miami’s big league roster is because of Chekhov’s caveat: “when he connects.” Burdick struck out in 35 of his 102 trips to the plate in the majors last season, and has an uncool strikeout rate of 39% in Triple-A so far this year. That’s not going to work, even though he has considerable ability to hit the ball hard. RHP JB Bukauskas: Another relative dinosaur. Bukauskas, 26, was a first pick in 2017, the same year as Royce Lewis, Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, and so on. He’s bounced around a bit since then, including joining the Brewers with no waivers last month. While he’s not technically a rookie anymore (despite only having logged 18 big league innings), we’re including him anyway, because that’s the kind of creative freedom we’re willing to take with these things. Bukauskas has a 64.5% sniff percentage on his minor league slider this season. We suspect the Brewers see some potential here and he’ll take a look at the majors in due course. 3B Mark Winden: Vientos is unlucky enough to be the second best young third baseman in the Mets system behind Brett Baty. It’s a shame for him because he’s had a brilliant start to the season. He came in on Wednesday after hitting more than 58% of his batted balls at 95 mph or faster. What’s more is that he has cut his success rate. While he fell out in nearly 29% of his trips to the plate in Triple-A last season, he has a K percentage of just 22% so far this year. Vientos will find a big league job somewhere if he keeps hitting the way he hits, just maybe not in Queens. R. H. P. McKinley Moore: Moore, part of the return on Adam Haseley in a largely forgotten spring 2022 trade, has already appeared in the majors this season. He still gets this spot because he has only allowed an average run-out speed of 82.5 mph against Triple-A hitters in his first five appearances. That’s the lowest mark on the Lehigh Valley roster, at least 20 batters facing each other. Moore has a big arm — his fastball averages 157 mph — but he’s had problems with his command his entire career. If he can improve his shoddy geography, he could become a fixture in the bullpen in Philly. C Henry Davis: The pieces are falling into place for Davis, the No. 1 selection in the 2021 draft, to make his big league debut this summer. First, the Pirates are off to a surprisingly good start – if it continues that way deeper into the summer, they may start to seriously consider making a shock run at a postseason berth. For another, you have Davis with a red-hot .485 wOBA in his first 17 games this season at the Double-A level. That’s largely due to the fact that he already homered six times — last season, he homered a total of 10 times in 59 games. Davis possesses great power, and while it’s unlikely he’ll serve as Pittsburgh’s Adley Rutschman, he doesn’t have to to represent an offensive upgrade at catcher. LHP Jackson Wolf: Wolf has a stellar 5.60 ERA over his first five starts in Double-A (in part because he is giving up 1.5 home runs per nine innings), but we give him credit for his 38% strikeout percentage. You might see that number and think he’s a high-octane arm. He is not. Wolf’s game is based on … well, let’s just reprint his own words: “[Getting] outs won’t come from guys blowing fastballs. It’s going to come from using my moves, and using my weird moves and leverage — sort of my trickery — to get hitters uncomfortable and off balance. future reliever. R. H. P. Carson Ragsdale: Acquired from the Phillies in exchange for Sam Coonrod, Ragsdale is a tall right-hander with an arsenal built for verticality: a rising fastball and a curveball delivered from a high point of release. He has a phenomenal start in five games this season, with a 3.48 ERA and – more importantly – a 10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Considering that Coonrod finished his Phillies career with an 85 ERA+ after 54 appearances, we think the Giants have a shot at winning this deal. FROM Victor Scott II: You won’t find Scott on most prospect lists a year after being selected in the fifth round, but here’s what you need to know: He can really run and he’s putting that skill to use in the outfield and on the basepaths. He’s hit 17 out of 18 on stolen bases so far. That should come as no surprise; in West Virginia, he scored 62 bases on 72 attempts, resulting in a career-high 86.1% success rate. 3B Brady House: House, the 11th pick in the 2021 draft, has had an encouraging start to the season based on this stat alone: ​​he has a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 0.92. Why is that important? Because he had a 0.20 walk-to-strikeout ratio last year and his sniffing tendencies had been one of the biggest concerns about his game. It is worth noting that he also lifts the ball more. So far the results have been good, with him homering as many times in 62 at bats as he did last year in 203. We’ll see if he can keep it up.

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