The unranked prospect viewed as 'a rising star'

June 19th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart’s Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

HOUSTON -- Pascanel Ferreras was the final overall pick of the 2023 MLB Draft out of Western Carolina. He wound up being one of the first players from the Astros’ Draft class to reach Double-A Corpus Christi, where he has continued to impress with his bat.

After posting an .572 OPS last year at Single-A Fayetteville in his professional debut, Ferreras spent only 21 games at High-A Asheville, where he slashed .309/.411/.457, earning a promotion to Corpus Christi on May 7. In 33 games with the Hooks, the infielder is slashing .246/.345/.467 with four homers and 17 RBIs, and he has displayed an advanced approach at the plate.

Astros senior director of player development and performance science Jacob Buffa said the club challenged Ferreras to be more aggressive in the strike zone this year, which has led to a bump in his exit velocity. Buffa said Ferreras’ average exit velocity last year was 85 mph and his in-zone swing rate was around 68 percent. At Asheville, Ferreras took his average exit velocity to 91 mph and his in-zone swing rate to 75 percent. That's because he was much more aggressive with pitches in the zone.

“Those were massive jumps that we saw from him, and we felt like we saw it at close to 100 plate appearances. He did exactly what we asked, while also playing pretty good defense at short,” Buffa said. “We wanted to challenge at him next level.”

Ferreras has continued to show better hitting skills at Corpus Christi, with an average exit velocity of 91 mph and an in-zone swing rate of 73 percent with the Hooks, according to Buffa.

“That’s 100 percent to Pascanel’s credit,” Buffa said. “It’s something that’s tough to teach. I think he’s so good at going up there with a game plan, then being able to make adjustments within game. We can certainly provide hitters with all the information in the world, but sometimes pitchers deviate and sometimes you may have to make adjustments, and Pascanel is truly very advanced with his approach.”

Ferreras is one of four members of the Astros’ 2023 Draft class at Corpus Christi, joining first-round pick Brice Matthews (Houston’s No. 3 prospect who was promoted from Asheville on Monday), infielder Jeron Williams and right-handed pitcher Jake Bloss (No. 10).

Bloss (6 1/3 innings) and Cesar Gomez combined to throw Corpus Christi’s first no-hitter on Saturday. Bloss is 2-0 with a 0.48 ERA over three starts in June, allowing one run on five hits and four walks in 18 2/3 innings.

Ferreras, meanwhile, has five triples with the Hooks, which leads the Texas League.

Buffa said Ferreras improved his quality of contact by flattening out his swing just a tad without any changes to his bat speed.

“There was a minor swing change to allow him to make better quality of contact with some pitches, but then I also just think being more aggressive with the right pitches,” Buffa said. “I think it also allowed him to square up a higher percentage of balls. I do think it’s worth noting the contact rates are the same. It’s not like he’s making contact with more overall pitches. He’s just swinging at better pitches to be able to do more damage than he does.”

Ferreras, 22, stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 185 pounds. He will split time at Corpus Christi between second base and shortstop, where Matthews will also get reps. Ferreras has some impressive intangibles, too, especially when it comes to competitiveness and smarts to go along with his advanced approach.

“We view him as a rising star in the system,” Buffa said. “We take a similar approach to all the middle-infield prospects. We’re going to allow him to play short until he shows us, hopefully, he can play good defense at shortstop and keep this approach success at the Double-A level. Then, we challenge him again at the next level. And if eventually he keeps passing each one of these tests, he’ll wind up finding himself in the big leagues one day.”

Minor League roundup

Triple-A Sugar Land: Shay Whitcomb (No. 30) leads the Pacific Coast League with 61 RBIs. Right behind him in the leaderboards are teammates Pedro León (No. 26) and Jesús Bastidas, each with 59 RBIs. The trio of prospects combined for 10 RBIs in Saturday’s 14-5 win over Oklahoma City. Bastidas hit a two-run homer in the second inning, and Whitcomb hit a grand slam in the Space Cowboys’ nine-run seventh.

High-A Asheville: The Tourists overcame a seven-run deficit to beat Greenville, 11-10, on Sunday. It was only the third time in the past 15 years that Asheville trailed by as many as seven runs and came back to win a game. Luis Encarnacion had three RBIs and three hits. John Garcia, Garret Guillemette and Oliver Carrillo had two hits apiece. Narbe Cruz hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the fifth for the Tourists.

Single-A Fayetteville: Five Woodpeckers pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters while throwing a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over the Salem Red Sox on Sunday. Starter Colby Langford threw two innings, allowing one hit, while Dawill Almonte and Abel Mercedes each had one inning in relief. But it was Yeriel Santos that did most of the heavy lifting. He came on in the fourth inning and threw five innings, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out seven batters.