Some of baseball's most exciting and promising prospects called High-A home in 2021. Three Top 100 prospects were included among the award winners, showing a deep well of talent on the rise. Popular names like Nick Gonzales and Francisco Álvarez plus 2021 Draft picks like Henry Davis spent most, if not all of their time in High-A ... and as evidenced by the award winners, even more are on the horizon.
Minor League Baseball announced the end-of-season award winners and All-Star teams for the three High-A leagues on Thursday after tallying votes from league broadcasters, MiLB executives and select members of the media.
Here are the major award winners from each circuit.
Most Valuable Player: Matt Fraizer, Greensboro (PIT)
Perhaps less heralded than his teammate and Top 100 prospect, Gonzales, Fraizer proved his worth in his first full-season campaign with the Grasshoppers. The No. 23 Pirates prospect was Greensboro's best offensive performer through 75 games before his promotion to Double-A Altoona on Aug. 5. In fact, Fraizer was one of the best hitters on the circuit prior to his move up the ladder. The 23-year-old was leading the High-A East in hits (95), walks (43), runs (64), home runs (20) and batting average (.314). He left the 'Hoppers with a .314/.401/.578 slash line while driving in 50 runs and swiping 14 bases in 20 attempts.
Pitcher of the Year: Quinn Priester, Greensboro (PIT)
With the league's MVP as well as its top pitcher, it's little wonder Greensboro took Bowling Green to a fifth game in the High-A East championship before falling short. MLB's No. 49 overall prospect played a large part in that success with a strong year from start to finish. Priester (7-4) carried a sub-3.00 ERA into the final month of the season and ended 2021 with 98 strikeouts in 97 2/3 innings, the second-highest whiff total in the organization. Using a fastball that can reach 98 mph and sits consistently at 97-plus with tremendous spin rate, the 21-year-old compiled a 3.04 ERA in 20 starts with the Grasshoppers and limited opposing hitters to a .225 average.
Top MLB Prospect: Ronny Mauricio, Brooklyn (NYM)
There are others with better overall statistics, but Mauricio did more than turn heads in 2021. The 53rd-ranked overall prospect began the year with Brooklyn a month after turning 20, nearly three years younger than the league average. Having added significant bulk to his 6-foot-3, 166-pound frame, Mauricio parlayed that muscle into a career-high 20 home runs, 19 coming in his first 100 games with the Cyclones, for whom he batted .242 with a .740 OPS and 63 RBIs before his promotion to Double-A Binghamton.. He entered the season with seven long balls in his first two professional seasons. Although his plate discipline (100-to-26 K-to-BB ratio) remains a work in progress, Mauricio has one of the highest upsides of any middle infielder in the Minors.
Most Valuable Player/Top MLB Prospect: Andy Pages, Great Lakes (LAD)
A strong season from Pages looks even more impressive given his age and relative inexperience. The 100th overall prospect made the jump from Rookie-level Ogden in 2019 all the way to High-A in 2021 and mashed his way to relevance. Buoyed by an 11-homer June, Pages' 31 taters were tied for the seventh-most in the Minors while his 88 RBIs left him just outside the Top 10. The 20-year-old showed a good approach at the plate, walking 77 times en route to a .394 OBP. Pages was consistent from the first game and finished hot, batting .322 with a 1.069 OPS in September. Overall, the Havana, Cuba native batted .265/.394/.539 with 57 extra-base hits in 438 at-bats.
Pitcher of the Year: Anthony Veneziano, Quad Cities (KC)
One of four unranked prospects among his fellow HIgh-A honorees, Veneziano nevertheless deserves his status as the Central's top pitcher. The 24-year-old overcame a rocky May (6.35 ERA) to finish with a 3.75 ERA in 22 starts for the River Bandits. Veneziano (6-4) held opposing hitters to a .222 average and led all Royals farmhands with 127 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings, good for a rate of 12.2 K/9.
Most Valuable Player: Cade Marlowe, Everett (SEA)
Marlowe was a run-producing machine during his 71-game stint in the Pacific Northwest. The 27th-ranked Mariners prospect hit 20 of his 26 homers and collected 77 of his Minor League-high 107 RBIs with the AquaSox while batting .259/.345/.566. Of his 74 hits with Everett, 43 went for extra bases. Marlowe began the year with Low-A Modesto and was eventually rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A Tacoma on the season's final day.
Pitcher of the Year: Mitchell Kilkenny, Spokane (COL)
Kilkenny entered 2021 with the pedigree of a second-round Draft pick in 2018 out of Texas A&M. Although the Houston native is not ranked among the Rockies' Top 30 prospects, he led the organization with 12 wins, nine coming in 15 starts for Spokane following his promotion from Low-A Fresno. Kilkenny posted a 3.95 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and compiled a strong 71-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 82 innings in High-A.
Top MLB Prospect: Spencer Horwitz, Vancouver (TOR)
A first glance at Horwitz's numbers during his 105-game stay in Vancouver doesn't include any eye-popping statistics. What it does show is a solid all-around player who does the things necessary at the plate and in the field to help his club win games. The unranked 23-year-old batted .290 with a .846 OPS, 39 extra-base hits and 62 RBIs for the Canadians. Horwitz was one of four players in High-A to walk 70 times, leading to his .401 OBP, tied for third-best in the entire league.