Due to travel, it’s been a little over a month since the last Big Hype Prospects. Let’s check in on who is making waves.
Five Big Hype Prospects
Jackson Holliday, 19, SS, BAL (A+)(A/A+)158 PA, 6 HR, 11 SB, .394/.513/.701
Holliday’s introduction to professional baseball could not be more encouraging. He leads all qualified minor league hitters with a 222 wRC+. After wrecking Low-A pitching, he’s eviscerating High-A competition in the same manner. He evinces excellent plate discipline and a feel for stinging contact. His nearly .500 BABIP isn’t the product of luck – he’s simply outclassing the competition with an all-fields approach. If there’s a quibble, it’s that he rarely lofts the ball. Even so, that’s not affecting his power output – he has an excellent .300 ISO on the season.
To outside observers, Holliday is seemingly ready for a challenge at Double-A. It’s worth remembering he has just 93 plate appearances in High-A and a total of only 248 professional plate appearances. As long as the Orioles don’t believe he’s stagnating, a longer stint in High-A could prove appropriate. A stable environment helps with certain types of learning. On the other hand, we’re all eager to see what he does when finally challenged.
Junior Caminero, 19, 3B, TBR (A+)146 PA, 11 HR, 2 SB, .351/.404/.709
I’ve put out a few calls for updated notes on Caminero since those I’ve gathered disagree about his future feel for contact. Presently, few hitters have shown comparable capacity for power. The folks at FanGraphs emphasized “his lack of ball/strike recognition” in a recent report, a concern shared by other evaluators. However, as others point out, such issues are hardly unprecedented among successful Major Leaguers. In this day and age, it’s not as if a 19-year-old slugger is incapable of making adjustments. It hasn’t been a problem in High-A because practically everything he hits is hammered. His .362 ISO ranks sixth in the minors. Double-A will mark an important challenge for Caminero.
Evan Carter, 20, OF, TEX (AA)158 PA, 4 HR, 8 SB, .302/.430/.426
Carter can be a divisive prospect. It’s so easy to fall in love with the discipline and feel for contact. A Major League future feels inevitable. The floor for Carter is seemingly so high. Brandon Nimmo comps abound. All the same traits – even body type and line-drive-based power are there. It’s rare for prospect analysis to gush about a player’s floor, and perhaps that’s the problem with Carter. We’re usually focused on ceiling and, barring a change, Carter’s feels limited; like he’s on his way to becoming one of the best core contributors in the league. Will we find him on many All-Star teams? Probably not at his current power output.
The same point I made with Caminero applies to Carter. Never has it been easier for players to make positive adjustments to their game. Just because a prospect looks and feels like Brandon Nimmo doesn’t mean they’re destined to stay in their lane. Carter could follow the path of Lars Nootbaar to higher exit velocities. Or, like a different Cardinals outfielder, he could stall out against some aspect of Major League pitching.
Gavin Williams, 23, SP, CLE (AAA)(AA/AAA) 40 IP, 12.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.58 ERA
A number of my favorite pitching prospects are in the Guardians system, and Williams is probably the best of the bunch. After three laser-sharp outings in Double-A, he was promoted to Triple-A where he’s remained effective. He worked 115 innings last season, so there is some scope for him to contribute in the Majors this season while managing his workload. However, the Guardians will soon welcome back Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie. A near-term opportunity might not present itself. Williams features a four-pitch repertoire of upper-90s fastball, well-commanded slider, curve, and changeup. To my eyes, it looks as if he has sinking and riding fastballs – or perhaps the pitch behaved differently based on vertical location (I haven’t seen this mentioned in reports). Like most power pitchers, the changeup lags behind the other offerings, though it is viewed as a viable pitch with promise. The word “intensity” appears on multiple public reports.
Henry Davis, 23, C, PIT (AA)141 PA, 10 HR, 5 SB, .297/.447/.631
Davis’ second tour in Double-A is going swimmingly. After a mere 97 wRC+ over a similar span last season, his current 189 wRC+ ranks sixth in the minors. He’s also showing the walk, strikeout, and contact rates of a future star. Davis was drafted as a slugging catcher who might eventually wind up at first base. As yet, the Pirates have mostly used him as a catcher this season with a few odd starts at designated hitter and right field. Davis has an extreme, pulled, fly ball approach which isn’t exactly suited to PNC Park. However, he has the raw power to make it work even if a few would-be dingers die on the warning track. It’s feeling increasingly probable we see both Davis and Endy Rodriguez in Pittsburgh later this summer – especially if the club can remain competitive in the standings.
Matt McLain, CIN (23): McLain was selected about a week ago after hitting .348/.474/.710 in Triple-A. In 22 plate appearances, he has 10 strikeouts and four hits. He’s struggled to make impactful contact after averaging 90.9-mph EV in Triple-A. McLain has a narrow window to impress Cincinnati decision-makers before the likes of Elly De La Cruz and others arrive on the scene.
Nolan Jones, COL (25): A post-hype prospect, Jones is a disciplined power hitter who has a bit of a Quad-A reputation at the moment. He’s producing a .362/.486/.723 line in a heady offensive environment with 90.5-mph average EV (113.7-mph Max EV). He’s splitting time between first base, third base, and right field – all positions the Rockies could stand to upgrade (at least indirectly).
Ethan Salas, SDP (16): As my favorite contact put it, “Salas is bound to be the first 16-year-old position player in a full-season league in a loooooong time.” The young catcher is already entering Top 100 lists.
Did I miss a detail or nuance? DM me on Twitter @BaseballATeam to discuss corrections.
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