Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Athletics News

1 prospect on each team who impressed in ST

@JonathanMayo and @GoldenSombrero and @JimCallisMLB
March 17, 2020

One constant of every Spring Training is that young players get the chance to show what they can do on a bigger stage. Every spring, prospects are given the chance, whether they have an opportunity to make an Opening Day roster or simply make an impression on the big league

One constant of every Spring Training is that young players get the chance to show what they can do on a bigger stage. Every spring, prospects are given the chance, whether they have an opportunity to make an Opening Day roster or simply make an impression on the big league staff, to show what they can do.

Even though this Spring Training was cut short, prospects strutted their stuff in both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. Here’s one for each organization who certainly helped his stock when given the chance (with his ranking among the team's top prospects in parentheses).

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Blue Jays: Santiago Espinal, SS/2B (No. 22)
Toronto’s decision to add Espinal to its 40-man roster last November already looks like a wise one. Acquired from Boston in the June 2018 Steve Pearce swap, the 25-year-old utility man batted .417 with seven of his 10 hits going for extra bases (including three home runs) this spring after slashing .287/.347/.393 with 35 extra-base hits and 71 RBIs in 122 games last season between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. Blue Jays top prospect Nate Pearson (MLB No. 8) also had a big spring showing, striking out 11 while allowing one run on two hits over seven innings.

Orioles: Dean Kremer, RHP (No. 9)
Added to the 40-man roster this past offseason, Kremer was the most advanced pitcher to come to Baltimore in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers. While he missed a bit of 2019 with injury, he made up for lost time with an outstanding Arizona Fall League campaign, something that clearly carried over to his Grapefruit League appearances. The right-hander tossed 5 1/3 innings allowing just one unearned run on six hits and two walks while striking out five.

Rays: Randy Arozarena, OF (No. 17)
Acquired from the Cardinals with Jose Martinez in the offseason deal that sent left-handed pitching prospect Matt Liberatore to St. Louis, Arozarena had a breakout 2019 campaign as he set career highs in average (.344), home runs (15) and slugging (.571) in the Minor Leagues while also going 6-for-20 with a homer in the big leagues. It’s not exactly clear how the 25-year-old outfielder will fit into the Rays’ plans, but the organization is very high on him and is expected to find him at-bats, albeit possibly in a platoon role.

Spring Training stats for all top prospects

Red Sox: Connor Wong, C (No. 16)
Part of the Mookie Betts trade with the Dodgers last month, Wong made a strong, albeit brief, first impression on his new organization by going 3-for-10 (.300) with a pair of homers in big league camp. A third-round pick out of Houston in 2017, he's more athletic than most catchers and combines plus raw power with average speed.

Yankees: Clarke Schmidt, RHP (No. 2/MLB No. 88)
Schmidt has three pitches that grade as plus at their best, and he showed that he's not too far away from bolstering New York's rotation by striking out eight while allowing just two runs in seven Grapefruit League innings. The Yankees made him a first-round pick out of South Carolina even though he had Tommy John surgery a month before the 2017 Draft, and he looked sharper than ever after getting to Double-A last August.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Indians: Bobby Bradley, 1B (No. 12)
Bradley has won four Minor League home run titles in six years since signing as a third-round pick from a Mississippi high school. After topping the Triple-A International League with 33 homers last season he smashed three more while going 9-for-27 (.333) in Cactus League action.

Royals: Kyle Isbel, OF (No. 7)
Isbel rebounded from an injury-plagued regular season with an eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he homered in the annual Fall Stars Game. Overall, the former third-round pick (2018) posted an .853 OPS with two homers, five extra-base hits and six RBIs in 16 games and made several highlight-reel plays in the outfield. Right-handed reliever Tyler Zuber, Kansas City’s No. 28 prospect, also stood out in big league camp, allowing one run on three hits while striking out eight in six innings.

Tigers: Riley Greene, OF (No. 3/MLB No. 31)
Though he only was drafted last June, when the Tigers took him fifth overall, Greene looked like he belonged this spring in big league camp. Logging 18 plate appearances before he was reassigned to Minor League camp, the 19-year-old batted .417/.611/.917 with a pair of homers, four RBIs and six walks. Tigers No. 4 prospect Tarik Skubal (MLB No. 46) also performed well this spring, improving his stock by striking out six batters over 4 2/3 one-run frames.

Twins: Alex Kirilloff, OF (No. 2/MLB No. 32)
Wrist injuries really hampered Kirilloff during the 2019 season, and kept him from attending the Arizona Fall League, though he didn’t put up awful numbers in Double-A. A 100 percent healthy version of Kirilloff, one of the best pure hitters in the Minors, showed up in Fort Myers this spring. The left-handed hitter went 9-for-24 with a pair of homers for a .429/.455/.810 line over 21 at-bats.

White Sox: Yermin Mercedes, C (No. 25)
Though he's a career .302/.366/.491 hitter in the Minors, it took Mercedes eight years to earn a spot on a 40-man roster after originally signing with the Nationals for $20,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He raked in Spring Training, hitting .381/.409/1.000 with four homers in 21 at-bats. Several Chicago prospects had big springs, including catcher/first baseman Zack Collins (1.261 OPS), outfielders Luis Gonzalez (1.113) and Luis Robert (.961) and first baseman Andrew Vaughn (.970).

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Astros: Bryan Abreu, RHP (No. 5)
Signed for just $40,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Abreu has one of the better curveballs among prospects and also can flash a wipeout slider. He overwhelmed hitters with his breaking stuff during Spring Training, holding hitters to a .120 average with 13 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings.

Angels: Michael Hermosillo, OF (unranked on Angels Top 30)
The 25-year-outfielder has already over-achieved by reaching the big leagues in 2018-19 as a 28th-round pick back in 2013, though he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of production. Hermosillo has a fourth-outfielder type of vibe and was making a claim toward a gig like that with a .450/.476/.850 line in 20 at-bats that included a pair of doubles and homers and two stolen bases.

Athletics: Jesus Luzardo, LHP (No. 1/MLB No. 12)
Anyone who saw Luzardo in Oakland late last year and in the Wild Card Game knows his stuff is more than good enough to get big league hitters out right now. And he’ll be counted on to be a part of the A’s rotation this season. He served noticed he’s ready for the task by allowing just one run on four hits over 8 1/3 innings (1.08 ERA) while striking out 13 vs. just one walk.

Mariners: Justus Sheffield, LHP (No. 13)
The left-hander had a roller-coaster 2019 season, one that saw him have to go back down to Double-A to straighten himself out after getting roughed up in Triple-A. The good news is that Sheffield got knocked down and got back up and kept pitching well in Cactus League action this spring, allowing just two runs on five hits over eight innings while walking none and whiffing 12.

Rangers: Anderson Tejeda, SS (No. 8)
One of the hardest-hitting shortstops in the Minors, Tejeda missed much of last season with a dislocated non-throwing shoulder. A $100,000 signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, he looked healthy this spring while batting .500/.611/.786 with more walks (three) and extra-base hits (two) than strikeouts (one) in 18 plate appearances.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Kyle Wright, RHP (No. 4/MLB No. 52)
Wright made it up to the big leagues in a hurry, making his debut just over a year after being a first-round pick of the Braves out of Vanderbilt in 2017. While he hasn’t established himself yet, his stuff is plenty good enough. And that was on display in Grapefruit League action, where he had 15 strikeouts and a .152 batting average against in 13 1/3 innings of work.

Marlins: Alex Vesia, LHP (No. 27)
A 17th-round senior sign out of Cal State East Bay in 2018, Vesia hasn't allowed a run in his last 45 Minor League, Arizona Fall League or Spring Training innings. Armed with a deceptive, high-spin 92-97 mph fastball, he had more saves (two) than hits allowed (one) in six Grapefruit League frames.

Mets: David Peterson, LHP (No. 10)
After spending all of 2019 in Double-A, Peterson reported to Spring Training in better physical shape and saw his velocity tick up a bit as a result, with his ground-ball-inducing sinker touching 93-94 mph more often. The 2017 first-rounder was scored upon just once in three spring starts, striking out six and scattering five hits in six innings.

Nationals: Luis Garcia, SS/2B (No. 2/MLB No. 97)
Fresh off of an impressive showing as one of the Arizona Fall League’s youngest players, the 19-year-old middle infielder was very impressive during Spring Training as he batted .417/.462/.462 with a homer across 27 plate appearances. The strong start is a promising sign for Garcia, who batted .272 with 22 extra-base over his final 65 Double-A games last season after he batted just .241 with eight XBH over his first 64 games.

Phillies: Rafael Marchan, C (No. 7)
The top catching prospect in the Phillies system, Marchan didn’t get a ton of playing time in Grapefruit League action. But when the big league manager is a former catcher like Joe Girardi, Marchan’s plus defensive skills certainly made an impression, Marchan also went 3-for-6 at the plate, but he showed he’s ready for the upper levels after spending 2019 at two levels of Class A ball.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Brewers: Mario Feliciano, C (No. 3)
While there weren’t too many strong performances by Brewers prospects this spring, Feliciano, 21, made the most of his 14 plate appearances by batting .333 with a pair of doubles and five RBIs. The Puerto Rican backstop struck out at a 28.8 percent clip in 2019, his first fully healthy season, but still managed to garner Class A Advanced Carolina League MVP honors after he led the circuit in home runs (19), RBIs (81), slugging (.477) and total bases (210).

Cardinals: Dylan Carlson, OF (No. 1/MLB No. 17)
One of the top breakout prospects of 2019, Carlson claimed the Texas League MVP award as a 20-year-old and ultimately posted a .292/.372/.542 line with 64 extra-base hits and 95 runs between Double- and Triple-A. He also finished with 26 home runs and 20 steals, making him one of 10 Minor Leaguers to record a 20/20 season in ’19. Carlson picked up this spring where he’d left off last year, batting .500 over his first six games before finishing with a .313/.436/.469 overall line. Right-handed reliever Kodi Whitley, No. 14 on the Cardinals Top 30, also fared well, tossing six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and just three hits allowed.

Cubs: Trent Giambrone, INF/OF (unranked on Cubs Top 30)
The NCAA Division II defensive player of the year in 2016, Giambrone signed for $1,000 in the 25th round as a Delta State (Miss.) senior that June. He has close to average tools across the board and helped his cause with a hot spring, batting .458/.500/625 with 12 RBI in 24 at-bats. He also struck out 10 times, meaning he hit an insane .786 when he put the ball in play.

Reds: Jose Garcia, SS (No. 5)
The Reds clearly had high hopes for Garcia when they signed him for nearly $5 million during the 2016-17 international signing period. The Cuban defector had stood out with his glove since signing, but hadn’t shown much with the bat , including his stint in the Arizona Fall League. It did look like he had added strength during Cactus League play, as the shortstop hit four homers in 26 at-bats for a .769 SLG.

Pirates: Nick Burdi, RHP (unranked on Pirates Top 30)
It’s not been an easy path for Burdi, who had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and then was taken in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pirates that December. He started showing his potential in 2019 when he got hurt again, this time with thoracic outlet syndrome. He looked like his dominant reliever self this spring, allowing just one run on three hits over 4 2/3 IP, striking out eight and walking just one.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-backs: Kevin Cron, 1B (No. 26)
After making steady progress during his rise through the Minors, 6-foot-5, 250-pounder broke out last season to hit a Minor League-high 39 homers -- including a franchise-record 38 in just 82 games at Triple-A Reno -- and added six more in the big leagues with Arizona. Cron’s massive right-handed power was on display once again this spring, as the 27-year-old slugger finished second on the club in both home runs (3) and RBIs (8).

Dodgers: Cody Thomas, OF (unranked on Dodgers Top 30)
A former backup quarterback at Oklahoma drafted in the 13th round in 2016, Thomas has some of the best power in a Los Angeles system filled with sluggers. He tied for the Spring Training lead with five homers and batted .318/.333/1.091.

Giants: Joey Bart, C (No. 1/MLB No. 14)
The No. 2 overall pick in 2018 out of Georgia Tech, Bart has the tools to star offensively and defensively. He has produced everywhere he has gone in pro ball, including the Cactus League, where he batted .438/.526/.875 and threw out the lone basestealer who tested him.

Padres: Javy Guerra, RHP (No. 24)
The former shortstop has developed rapidly on the mound after batting .237/.298/.374 across seven Minor League seasons and moving to the mound full time roughly a year ago. Behind an electric fastball that sits in the upper 90s and touches triple digits, Guerra made a case for a spot in San Diego’s Opening Day bullpen by allowing just three hits with five strikeouts and a walk over 5 1/3 scoreless innings spanning five outings.

Rockies: Antonio Santos, RHP (No. 30)
After a solid 2019 season and a very strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, Santos earned a spot on the Rockies’ 40-man roster. If his stint in big league camp was any indication, he’s not far off from contributing in some fashion to the big league pitching staff. A tremendous strike-thrower, Santos impressed the big league staff by doing just that with his three-pitch mix. Allowing just one run on two hits over five innings of work.

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.

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