Here's the next 'Where'd he come from?' prospect

August 20th, 2020

With the Tigers calling up both Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize, Cristian Pache getting called up by the Braves and Brendan Rodgers returning to the big leagues with the Rockies, that brings the total of Top 100 prospects in the big leagues to 20. And yes, that’s a lot.

And the good thing is, there’s likely more to come. I see at least two players in the top 10 who should be up at some point (No. 2 Gavin Lux and No. 5 MacKenzie Gore), with other Top 100 players, and some who are on Top 30 lists, having the chance to impact a Major League roster.

This week’s inbox kicks off with a pair of callup questions, but as usual, your questions cut across a wide range of topics.

Alec Bohm is one of the many aforementioned Top 100 prospects in the big leagues, one who is off to a very solid 6-for-17 start with a pair of doubles and RBIs to his name. I almost decided not to answer this question because Bohm is as high as he is, No. 31 to be precise, entirely because of his offensive potential. Considering he’s an average defender at best, it’s the bat that matters.

Then I kind of reframed the question and decided to take out all of the non-offensive projection tools of the other hitters in the Top 100 and see where Bohm stood out. Bohm comes in at No. 21 among hitters on the Top 100 (counting the Rays’ Brendan McKay as a pitcher only in this instance since that’s where most of his ranking comes from). There are nine hitters who have a lower grade than Bohm as a hitter (60). Of that group, seven have a better power grade than Bohm’s 55, so I wouldn’t jump to decide any of them should fall behind the Phillies infielder in this new ranking.

The two players with lower hit tools who are ahead of Bohm in the Top 100 are Cristian Pache (55 hit, 50 power) and Drew Waters (55 hit, 50 power), both Braves outfield prospects, and their defense clearly is a reason they rank higher. But Pache also has 70 speed and Waters grades out as a 60, another separator.

There are five players ahead of Bohm with lower than a 55 power grade. Two are Pache and Waters (Looking at this more closely, I’m thinking we might have Waters a bit too low, but that’s a different issue.). Nationals third baseman Carter Kieboom (60 hit, 50 power), Padres shortstop CJ Abrams (60 hit, 50 power) and Blue Jays first-round pick Austin Martin (65 hit, 50 power) are the other three. Abrams’ 80 speed puts him ahead of Bohm. Kieboom and Martin might be the first players in this conversation you could make an argument about being below Bohm based solely on offense.

I think an argument could be made to put Bohm’s bat ahead of the Rockies’ Brendan Rodgers (60 hit, 55 power) and the Marlins’ JJ Bleday (55 hit, 60 power), though that’s no slam dunk. Julio Rodriguez is also 55 hit, 60 power, but I think we’re light on those grades, so I’m leaving him where he is. So if you move Bohm up and slide Kieboom and Martin down, that would put Bohm at No. 17 among hitters in the Top 100, up from where he is now at 21.

For this question, I decided to enlist the help of colleague Mike Rosenbaum, who does our Rays Top 30. It’s such a deep system, I wasn’t exactly sure who qualifies as “lesser-known.” At first, we talked about Joe Ryan. But he’s No. 9 on the list, and while he’s not considered an elite-level guy by everyone, he wasn’t far off from our preseason Top 100.

So we’ll go down the list a little bit more, to current No. 21 prospect Seth Johnson. Johnson had been a shortstop at Lewisburg Junior College for two years and pitched just six innings there. He transferred to Campbell and became an outstanding pitching prospect and went No. 40 overall in the 2019 Draft. Johnson threw 17 innings during his summer pro debut and obviously hasn’t been able to pitch since.

But word is, dating back to Spring Training and into his workouts now, the right-hander has been very, very good. Yes, I know it’s Twitter video, but this is nasty:

Johnson has the chance to have two plus pitches in that fastball and his slider. He has a changeup and curve, too, and is athletic enough to learn how to command the ball enough to be a starter. But the Rays could also shorten him up and let that fastball-breaking ball combination play up in the bullpen, where he could reach the big leagues in a hurry.

Kremer was one of the prospects the Orioles received in the Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers. The current No. 10 prospect in the system, the right-hander missed some time in 2019, but made it to Triple-A in his first full season with the organization, then pitched very well while he was making up for lost innings in the Arizona Fall League, earning him a spot on the 40-man roster.

The 24-year-old threw well during Spring Training, but was slowed a bit by a groin pull earlier this summer. He’s been building himself back up in alternate camp and all reports have been that he’s throwing well. That all points to Kremer, the first Israeli-born citizen to sign with a Major League organization, making his big league debut at some point in the second half of this shortened season.

The Orioles are playing .500 ball right now, ahead of nearly all projections, and stand 10th in the American League with a 4.77 ERA, so Kremer could be of service soon. He’d be the second Israeli citizen to play Major League baseball in history, after Ryan Lavarnway (who became a citizen last year in order to qualify for the Olympics) joined the Marlins recently.