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Top prospect performers at alternate sites

@JimCallisMLB and @JonathanMayo and @GoldenSombrero
September 10, 2020

With no Minor League season, the only time we really get to see prospects is when they get called up to the big leagues. Occasionally, we get a report about a guy performing well at an alternate site, but news coming out of those camps has been sparse, at best.

With no Minor League season, the only time we really get to see prospects is when they get called up to the big leagues. Occasionally, we get a report about a guy performing well at an alternate site, but news coming out of those camps has been sparse, at best.

This week, we want to change that. Reaching out to player development staffs for all 30 teams, we uncovered one prospect for each team who has impressed the most. We might not hear the buzz they are creating all the time, but these 30 prospects are certainly helping themselves with how they’ve performed, typically against older and more experienced competition.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Austin Martin, SS/OF (No. 2/MLB No. 18)
Toronto landed arguably the best all-around hitter in this year’s Draft in Martin, taking him with the No. 5 overall pick and subsequently assigning him to the team’s 60-man player pool. Though he was announced as a shortstop in the Draft, Martin’s athleticism and tools could make him a fit anywhere on the diamond, and his first reps with the organization in Summer Camp were at the hot corner. Overall, Martin has received glowing reviews for his progress at Toronto’s alternate site under the guidance of the team’s coaching staff.

Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C (No. 1/MLB No. 3)
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the No. 1 pick in the 2019 Draft is performing well during what should have been his first full season of pro ball. He’s hit for power while showing above-average plate discipline, and he’s been very good defensively behind the plate. The intensity of the work he puts in daily has also rubbed off on other players.

Red Sox: Triston Casas, 1B (No. 2/MLB No. 78)
Though the 2018 first-rounder is still just 20 and hasn't played above low Class A -- where he ranked second in extra-base hits (49) and third in homers (19) in the South Atlantic League in his first full pro season -- Casas has had little difficulty adjusting to more advanced pitchers in alternative camp. The still-growing 6-foot-5, 250-pounder arrived three weeks ago and has stood out with his huge raw power and mature approach.

Rays: Josh Lowe, OF (No. 10)
The 2016 first-round pick began to put it all together last year in Double-A, setting career highs in OPS (.783), home runs (18) and stolen bases (30), and he continued to make strides in the Arizona Fall League before undergoing offseason shoulder surgery that was expected to sideline him for the first half of 2020. But the delayed start to the start to the season enabled the 22-year-old outfielder to make a full recovery without missing any real time, and he’s said to be showing well in all facets of the game at Tampa Bay’s alternate site in Port Charlotte.

Yankees: Estevan Florial, OF (No. 7)
Florial has some of the best all-around tools in the system, including well-above-average raw power and arm strength to go with plus speed and center-field defense. He could have used a full season of at-bats to iron out his swing-and-miss issues, but he did get to make his big league debut and singled against the Mets in his lone game with New York.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: George Valera, OF (No. 4)
One of the most advanced young hitters in a system full of them, Valera has a pretty left-handed swing as well as the aptitude to recognize pitches and work counts. He posted an .802 OPS as the second-youngest regular (age 18) in the Short-Season New York-Penn League last year and would have made his full-season debut this season.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr., SS (No. 1/MLB No. 10)
The 2019 Draft’s No. 2 overall pick looked like he belonged in big league camp during the Spring and even more so in Royals Summer Camp, where he made several spectacular plays at both shortstop and third base while also showcasing an advanced bat with power to all fields. Royals officials are very impressed with how well the 20-year-old has played around older players at the team’s alternate site in Kansas City and are quick to note that Witt Jr. does something to excite them on a daily basis.

Tigers: Riley Greene, OF (No. 4/MLB No. 29)
Greene, the No. 5 pick in the 2019 Draft, was the biggest standout among Tigers prospects in big league camp this past spring, slashing .417/.611/.917 with two homers and six walks in seven games before the season was put on hold. He picked up right where he had left off when play resumed in July and has continued to impress Tigers officials in alternate camp, with the 19-year-old outfielder showcasing a combination of tools and advanced skills belying his age.

Twins: Royce Lewis, SS (No. 1/MLB No. 9)
Lewis had put an up-and-down 2019 behind him when he took home MVP honors in last year’s Arizona Fall League. He’s continued to make strides at the plate, hitting for average and more power as progress with his lower-half mechanics has paid dividends. He’s been playing only shortstop in camp to maximize his reps there and has made some exceptional plays in intrasquad games.

White Sox: Garrett Crochet, LHP (No. 4/MLB No. 98)
Crochet's Draft forecast was a bit cloudy because he came down with mild shoulder soreness and made just one appearance during the shortened college season, but the White Sox had no concerns about his health and were thrilled to grab him with the No. 11 overall pick in June. He has sat in the upper 90s and hit 101 mph with his fastball during alternative camp, and both his slider and changeup can be well-above-average offerings at their best.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Astros: Shawn Dubin, RHP (No. 20)
After playing at three colleges in four years and going in the 13th round of the 2018 Draft, Dubin was a revelation in his first full pro season when he limited opponents to a .547 OPS and 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings, mostly in high Class A. He has continued to open eyes in alternative camp with his nasty slider and 92-97 mph four-seamer while working on upgrading his changeup and command.

Angels: Jordyn Adams, OF (No. 4)
At age 20, he’s at the young end of alternate camp participants, but he’s stood out. The Angels have seen impressive growth for their 2018 first-rounder over the last 12 months in all facets of the game. Adams is making quick adjustments at the plate and his raw power is starting to show up. His 80 speed plays on both sides of the ball, taking extra bases regularly and showing he has the wheels and instincts to be a premium defender in center field.

A’s: Luis Barrera, OF (No. 8)
Barrera has been showing off three plus tools at times this summer. He’s always made a ton of contact, and his plus bat is still showing up (he’s hitting well over .400.), though his tendency to get over-aggressive at times could get exposed in the big leagues. He’s a slasher who will grow into average power and it’s showing up in camp. He’s also displayed plus speed and plus defensive ability in the outfield.

Mariners: Jarred Kelenic, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 11)
Kelenic’s been hitting the ball so hard in Tacoma, they’re probably hearing the contact in Seattle. His combination of tools have stood out, with his hit and power tools the loudest, though the Mariners have loved how he’s run, thrown and defended. Perhaps most importantly for a youth-laden team, he’s become more of a leader, one who has maximized his time in alternate camp.

Rangers: Josh Jung, 3B (No. 1/MLB No. 54)
Jung went eighth overall in the 2019 Draft because he was one of the most polished college hitters available, and he has lived up to that billing in alternative camp. With his ability to barrel balls and control the strike zone, he looks like a potential .300 hitter with 20-25 homers per season.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Shea Langeliers, C (No. 4/MLB No. 71)
Heading into the 2019 Draft, everyone talked about Langeliers’ defense behind the plate, the main reason why he was the No. 2 catcher behind Adley Rutschman. The No. 9 overall pick has been as good as advertised with his catch-and-throw skills this summer and he’s been swinging the bat very well, showing a solid approach and good gap-to-gap power.

Marlins: J.J. Bleday, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 27)
Bleday has shown why the Marlins drafted him fourth overall in 2019, when he led NCAA Division I with 27 homers and 192 total bases while helping Vanderbilt with the College World Series. With his combination of hitting ability, raw and usable power and athleticism, he might be able to contribute in Miami next year.

Mets: Matt Allan, RHP (No. 5)
Allan’s high ceiling on the mound netted him a $2.5 million bonus as a third-round pick in 2019, and he subsequently offered a glimpse of his immense potential while reaching Class A Short Season Brooklyn in his pro debut. And while the Mets didn’t add Allan to their 60-man player pool until Aug. 15, it hasn’t taken the 19-year-old righty long to emerge as the most talked-about prospect at the team’s alternate site.

Nationals: Cade Cavalli, RHP (No. 4)
The Nationals believe they got a first-round steal this year in Cavalli, who spent the early part of his college career playing both ways at Oklahoma before moving to the mound full-time as a junior and becoming one of the nation’s top pitching prospects. He has made an indelible impression on Nats officials with the blend of physicality and stuff he’s shown at the team’s alternate site, where the 22-year-old right-hander’s heater reportedly has been sitting 95-98 mph and his plus, power curveball at 83-84 mph looking as good as ever.

Phillies: Rafael Marchan, C (No. 8)
Marchan made a strong impression when he got the chance to play in Grapefruit League games during Spring Training, which led to an invitation to summer camp, and he continued to impress there and now at the Phillies’ alternate site. He’s proving to be an above-average defender with elite hands, with a grinder mentality in terms of blocking. His baseball IQ is off the charts, helping him get better at calling games. He’s also shown a strong approach at the plate, with good strike zone awareness and excellent contact skills. The power is starting to come as he adds strength and his work ethic has really stood out.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Antoine Kelly, LHP (No. 7)
Though Kelly dominated during his pro debut last summer, posting a 1.26 ERA and 41/5 K/BB over 28 2/3 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Brewers officials were quick to acknowledge that the 6-foot-6 southpaw was still very raw and inexperienced in all facets of the game. That said, the organization has been pleasantly surprised with Kelly’s rapid development and overall maturation in a short amount of time at the team’s alternate site, noting that the hard-throwing lefty has made significant gains with throwing his changeup and learning how to effectively hold runners -- a concept that was foreign to Kelly when he entered pro ball.

Cardinals: Matt Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals (No. 3/MLB No. 57)
Acquired by the Cardinals in the offseason trade that sent Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena to Tampa Bay, Liberatore pitched to mixed results but still opened eyes this past spring in big league camp, pitching with improved fastball velocity to go along with his usual plus curveball. The 20-year-old left-hander and former first-round pick (2018) has continued to make strides at the team’s alternate site, with club officials pegging him as the most improved and exciting pitcher in camp.

Cubs: Brailyn Marquez, LHP (No. 1/MLB No. 69)
The Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime has had difficulty developing impact pitching prospects, though Marquez may change that in the near future. The hardest-throwing lefty starter in the Minors (regularly 96-98 mph, peaking at 102), he also has a power breaking ball and is building on the strides he made at the end of 2019 with his changeup and control.

Pirates: Travis Swaggerty, OF (No. 6)
After a late start at the alternate site, the Pirates’ top pick in the 2018 Draft has really come on in Altoona. He’s been hitting pull-side home runs, which is tough for lefties in that ballpark to do. He’s also been running down balls extremely well in center field while showing off impressive arm strength.

Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 51)
Greene had Tommy John surgery in early April 2019, but you wouldn’t know it based on the reports of how he’s throwing now. He’s making great strides beyond rehabbing from the injury, showing off plus stuff once again with excellent command. In addition, he’s started to tinker with a cutter which could give him another viable weapon on the mound.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs (No. 5/MLB No. 94)
When Arizona selected Carroll 18th overall in the 2019 Draft, the biggest question was whether the prep outfielder -- while already revered for his bat, speed and defense - would hit for power in the pro ranks. But after flashing some promising pop during his pro debut, posting an .896 OPS with 18 extra-base hits in 42 games, Carroll has been tapping into his raw power consistently this summer at Arizona’s alternate site.

Dodgers: Ryan Pepiot, RHP (No. 27)
Hitters in the Dodgers' alternative camp have hated facing Pepiot, who's best known for having the best changeup in the 2019 Draft, a low-80s weapon with fade. But now he's also sitting at 95 mph with improved vertical movement on his fastball and could move quickly.

Giants: Marco Luciano, SS (No. 2/MLB No. 33)
The Giants' best international prospect in years, Luciano has more than held his own as an 18-year-old among much older players. His bat speed and raw power are his most obvious attributes, but he also displays some advanced hitting ability and quick-twitch athleticism that may allow him to stay at shortstop.

Padres: Ryan Weathers, LHP, Padres (No. 7)
After experiencing arm fatigue that caused his fastball to dip into the 89-91 mph range in his first full season, Weathers now looks more like the pitcher the Padres thought they were getting when they took him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. The 20-year-old left-hander sat at 96-97 mph during Summer Camp and has maintained that velocity at San Diego’s alternate site while also improving his breaking ball and changeup.

Rockies: Aaron Schunk, 3B/2B (No. 6)
The big and strong infielder taken in the second round of the 2019 Draft by the Rockies has been showing off his athleticism by adding second base to his defensive resume and he’s been developing very well there and at third, his natural position. He’s shown improved bat speed at the plate, driving the ball to all fields with authority, while showing strong leadership skills to boot.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.