Top pitching prospects stretch out, stay sharp

March 23rd, 2021

With one week left in big league camp, pitchers are beginning to stretch out. And as more hurlers are being reassigned there’s more room for top prospects to go deeper into their starts.

The Padres’ MacKenzie Gore, Tigers’ Tarik Skubal and A’s Daulton Jefferies all pitched into the fourth inning on Tuesday for the first time this spring.

Gore, baseball’s No. 6 overall prospect, allowed two runs on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings. The southpaw was in control most of the start, with a Nick Castellanos homer being the main blemish.

Over four spring appearances, Gore has yielded four runs in 9 2/3 frames, registering 10 strikeouts against seven walks. With a four-pitch mix, the 2017 third overall Draft pick continues to stay in the hunt for that fifth spot in San Diego’s rotation.

Skubal dialed his fastball up to 98 in his start for the Tigers. The No. 24 overall prospect ran into trouble early, as he yielded his first two runs of the campaign, but he settled down in his final two frames. Skubal’s spring ERA climbed to a cool 1.50 after allowing the runs on five hits and five walks with three punchouts in four frames, thanks to his previous three stringy appearances.

Jefferies turned in his best outing of the campaign, spinning four two-hit frames with no walks and seven strikeouts against the Rockies. The A’s No. 4 prospect worked around a Raimel Tapia single to start that game and a Josh Fuentes triple to lead off the second to lower his ERA to 1.38.

In five Cactus League appearances, Jefferies has held foes to five runs -- two earned -- in 13 innings with 20 punchouts and three free passes. Coming off his Major League debut last summer, the right-hander is in contention to fill a spot in the rotation left by the injured Mike Fiers.

More notable performances from top prospects on Tuesday:

Adley Rutschman, C, BAL (MLB No. 2)
Rutschman got the start behind the plate and batted seventh. The 2019 No. 1 overall Draft pick knocked a two-out double to right in the second. He then tried to score on a Pat Valaika single, but was called out on a close call at the plate. Rutschman has reached base in six of his seven spring games, notching an .856 OPS. Gameday »

Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, PIT (MLB No. 9)
Batting second against the Twins, Hayes ripped a loud single to right that registered at 110.3 mph off the bat. The 24-year-old grounded out in his other two at-bats. Hayes has played in 13 of the Pirates’ 21 games, and he is likely to be the club’s Opening Day third baseman, with many projecting him as a solid Rookie of the Year candidate. Gameday »

Will Wilson, SS, SF
Wilson connected on his first homer of spring in his final at-bat against the Indians. Wilson, whom the Angels selected with the 15th overall pick from the 2019 Draft, hit five homers over 46 games with rookie-level Orem in his professional debut. Following the 2019 season, he was sent to San Francisco in an offseason trade and spent 2020 at the Giants' alternate training site. Gameday »

Matt Canterino, RHP, MIN
Canterino stayed stingy for the Twins with two walks over a hitless frame. The 2019 second-rounder has not allowed a knock all campaign, working around an unearned run on five walks with four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. Canterino hasn’t pitched above High-A in the Minors, and at 21, he was the youngest player at Minnesota’s alternate training site last summer. Gameday »

Yusniel Diaz, OF, BAL
Diaz ripped a triple in his lone plate appearance, his third extra-base hit this spring. Baltimore’s 10th-ranked prospect has three hits in his last five at-bats and is batting .280/.357/.520 with five RBIs in Grapefruit League play. Acquired from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade in 2018, Diaz equaled a career high with 11 home runs across three Minor League levels in 2019. Gameday »

Tucupita Marcano, 2B, SD
Marcano made the most of his one plate appearance Tuesday, lacing a tie-breaking two-run double in the seventh inning. The Padres’ No. 6 prospect has been one of the best hitters in the Cactus League, compiling a .467/.543/.767 slash line with six extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 30 at-bats. Marcano has hit safely in 11 of the 18 games he’s received an official at-bat. Gameday »