There are only two weeks left in the Minor League season for most clubs. That means limited chances to end 2021 on a strong note. At least four Top 100 prospects made the most of those closing opportunities last week.
No. 2 Julio Rodríguez, No. 18 Triston Casas, No. 61 Oswald Peraza and No. 78 Michael Busch all cracked MLB Pipeline’s Prospect Team of the Week for Aug. 30-Sept. 5. All four are making their second appearances on a PTOW during the 2021 season. Going back even further, this is the fifth time that Rodríguez has cracked such a list in his career, giving him three more total appearances than anyone else honored here.
The Yankees continued their PTOW dominance this season with three honorees in Peraza, catcher Austin Wells and outfielder Everson Pereira. New York prospects have made a PTOW 23 times this season alone, nine more than the Giants in second place. The Red Sox (Casas, Jay Groome) and Mariners (Rodríguez, Matt Brash) are the other farm systems with multiple prospects below.
This is the latest edition of the Prospect Team of the Week:
C: Austin Wells, Hudson Valley Renegades (High-A)
(Yankees No. 6)
.524/.583/.810, 5 G, 11-for-21, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R, 3 BB, 5 K
After Hudson Valley thrashed Greensboro, 23-4, on Sunday, it felt inevitable that the Renegades would feature at least one prospect on this list. Indeed, they have two, starting with Wells. The 2020 28th overall pick punctuated an already strong week by going 5-for-6 with a homer and a walk in that laugher. His .524 average was the highest by any qualified High-A batter last week, and his performance pushed his season line to .262/.387/.481 through 92 games between Hudson Valley and Low-A Tampa. The former Arizona standout was drafted for his bat, and that part of his game has made a solid transition to the pros in his first Minor League campaign.
Casas hit three home runs during Olympic play to help Team USA capture a silver medal in Japan, but it took some time for that power to return stateside. He hit only one homer in his first 20 games back with Portland. That changed Friday when he slugged three dingers over a doubleheader in New Hampshire, and he followed that with two more the following day, this time in a single game. What’s even more amazing: Casas had three more homers than strikeouts over his 21 plate appearances against the Fisher Cats. His 1.352 slugging percentage and 1.924 OPS were tops among all full-season qualifiers last week.
Busch is enjoying a strong season at Double-A with a .260/.382/.478 line, 19 homers and 133 wRC+ in 100 games for Tulsa, so it’s kind of crazy to think of what those numbers could be, had he not been hit by a pitch on the right hand in June that dulled his performance temporarily. Last week, Busch showed the Springfield Cardinals what he is capable of at full strength. His 28 total bases, 1.167 slugging percentage and 1.747 OPS were all second among full-season qualifiers during this period. The Dodgers infielder’s best showing came Saturday when he homered twice, doubled, walked and plated six in a 15-3 win.
3B: Zack Gelof, Stockton Ports (Low-A)
(Athletics No. 7)
.389/.542/.944, 5 G, 7-for-18, 2 HR, 4 2B, 7 RBI, 4 R, 5 BB, 3 K, 3 SB
Maybe it has something to do with getting out of a pitcher-friendly ballpark at Virginia and into a hitter-friendly league in Low-A West, but Gelof has had little issue adjusting to the pro game in his early days with Stockton. Six of his seven hits last week went for extra bases, and he married that pop with good plate discipline with five walks compared to three strikeouts. The 2021 second-rounder is hitting .293/.400/.520 with three homers and eight steals in 20 games since joining the Ports on Aug. 10.
Peraza is a Top 100 prospect on the strength of his above-average hit tool and impressive defense at a premium position, but he showed some power last week as well with a homer in his second at-bat last Tuesday at Bowie. Still, it was the overall hitting ability that shined brightest as he picked up knocks in more than half his at-bats. His 4-for-4 showing in one half of a Thursday doubleheader tied his Double-A high for hits in a game, despite coming in only seven innings. The 21-year-old shortstop has a .298/.360/.480 line with 13 homers and 34 steals over 96 games this season between Somerset and Hudson Valley.
OF: Everson Pereira, Hudson Valley Renegades (High-A)
(Yankees No. 13)
.333/.520/1.000, 5 G, 6-for-18, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 9 R, 6 BB, 5 K, 2 SB
The second Renegade on this week’s PTOW had an even bigger Sunday than Wells. Pereira hit three homers in the 23-4 romp, one of which was a grand slam as part of a 14-run ninth inning. That marked his third multihomer performance of the season. Before the monster finishing performance, Pereira’s week had been defined by walks. He picked up three in five plate appearances on Saturday alone. The 20-year-old outfielder has been limited to only 39 games across three levels this summer, but he’s certainly making his time in Hudson Valley count with a .288/.407/.712 line and nine homers in 17 games with the club so far.
OF: Jordan Nwogu, Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Low-A)
(Cubs No. 26)
.556/.619/.889, 6 G, 10-for-18, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 SB
The Cubs grabbed Nwogu in the third round out of Michigan last year because of his impressive raw power and good speed. This first full season hasn’t gone fully to plan, but the former Wolverine showed last week why his skillset can be tantalizing. That was specifically on display Saturday when he went 4-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs at home against Lynchburg. Those four hits set a new career high. Nwogu is hitting .251/.354/.406 with 10 homers and 15 steals in 83 games at Low-A this season.
Your weekly reminder that the 20-year-old can flat out hit. Rodríguez’s .565 average was best among Double-A qualifiers last week and third-best in all the Minors. The zero homers might stick out given the slugger's 65-grade power, but every other offensive category was so dominant that it can be set aside. Rodríguez thrived by taking what the Wichita pitchers gave him last week and seemed more than happy to pick up singles by the bunches. He is sitting on an eight-game hitting streak, during which his Double-A slash line has jumped from .312/.439/.473 to .374/.490/.528 through 34 games at the level. The top Mariners prospect is hitting .438/.544/.548 over 20 games since returning from the Olympics last month.
LHP: Jay Groome, Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A)
(Red Sox No. 8)
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K, 0.40 WHIP
A turbulent career for the 2016 12th overall pick took a significant jump forward last week. Groome was dominant in his Double-A debut, setting a new career high with 10 punchouts (against only 17 batters faced) while walking none at New Hampshire. The 23-year-old southpaw’s numbers at High-A Greenville were a mixed bag (5.29 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 108 K in 81 2/3 innings), but the important detail was that he was healthy following years of elbow, lat and forearm problems. Pitching such a gem was even sweeter icing on that cake.
RHP: Matt Brash, Arkansas Travelers (Double-A)
(Mariners No. 10)
1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K, 0.17 WHIP
As stellar as Rodríguez was, the highlight of Arkansas’ week came Thursday when Brash combined with Nate Fisher and Dayeison Arias to toss a no-hitter at home against Wichita. Brash actually carried a perfect game into the seventh before walking the first batter he faced in that frame. He was immediately pulled and exited with 90 pitches, 60 of which were strikes. On the strength of a low-to-mid-90s fastball and wicked slider, Brash has posted a 1.64 ERA and 0.86 WHIP with 69 strikeouts in eight starts (44 innings) with the Travelers.
RP: Dauri Moreta, Louisville Bats (Triple-A)
(Reds No. 28)
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 G, 3 SV, 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.67 WHIP
Louisville needed Moreta to close the door three times last week. So that’s what he did, going 3-for-3 in his save opportunities. Those three saves tied him with Chattanooga’s Daniel Duarte and Worcester’s Kaleb Ort for the Minor League lead last week, though he’s the only one of those three currently ranked as a Top 30 prospect. The 25-year-old right-hander thrives on a 93-97 mph fastball that has shown added velo of late, as well as his ability to throw strikes -- rare for a relief prospect. He has yet to give up an earned run in 19 appearances with Louisville and has posted a 0.65 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and only four walks over 21 2/3 innings with the club.