For one last time in 2021, it’s moving season at the upper levels.
The Minor League regular season came to an end on Sunday. For the most part. The 30 Triple-A teams will still play in the Triple-A Final Stretch, a new two-week competition consisting of a pair of home and road five-game series that will take those clubs right through to Oct. 3.
The Double-A, High-A and Low-A postseasons begin on Tuesday, but if an organization’s affiliate didn’t make said playoffs, then Triple-A is the only Minor League game left in town. As such, a few organizations are taking advantage of the Triple-A Final Stretch to get their top prospects some last-minute playing time before time runs out for good on the 2021 Minor League season.
These are some of the most notable prospects recently promoted to the Minors’ top level in time for the Triple-A Final Stretch:
Brennen Davis, OF, Iowa (CHC No. 1/MLB No. 14)
Chicago’s top prospect got a head start on the Final Stretch when he was promoted to Triple-A last week. He had little issue transitioning to his new club, homering in his first two at-bats last Tuesday and finishing 10-for-24 (.417) with three blasts in six games on the week. The 21-year-old outfielder is a real five-tool talent with at least 55 grades across the board. His power has reached a new level in 2021 as well with a .513 slugging percentage and career-high 18 homers over 90 games across three levels. The All-Star Futures Game MVP, who homered twice in that showcase in Denver, was already on track for Wrigley Field next season, but a strong finishing kick could hasten that timeline.
Triston Casas, 1B, Worcester (BOS No. 2/MLB No. 18)
A left-handed masher meeting the right-field Worcester Wall? Sign us up. Casas’ busy summer, which already includes an Olympic silver medal with Team USA, continues with his climb to Central Massachusetts. Olympic qualifiers and play limited the 21-year-old first baseman to only 77 games with Double-A Portland this summer, but he certainly stood out with a .284/.395/.484 line and 13 homers in that time. His 142 wRC+ was fifth-best among Double-A Northeast qualifiers. Bobby Dalbec’s late-season surge has fans asking fewer questions about the future of first base in Boston, but Casas could push the envelope himself before 2021 is out.
Max Meyer, RHP, Jacksonville (MIA No. 3/MLB No. 31)
Few, if any, pitchers deserve a look at Triple-A more than Meyer. The Marlins sent their 2020 first-rounder straight to Pensacola for his first full season, and the right-hander responded by leading Double-A with a 2.41 ERA over 101 innings. He also finished fifth at the level with a 27.2 percent K rate (having fanned 113 in 101 innings) and eighth with a 1.23 WHIP. Reports indicate that Meyer’s stuff may have backed up a little in pro ball, but he still earns 65 grades for his fastball-slider combo. Time to put them to the test with at least one Triple-A start before the season is up.
Gabriel Moreno, C, Buffalo (TOR No. 1/MLB No. 33)
The 21-year-old backstop was one of the breakout prospects of the first half until he suffered a fractured thumb in June. He hit .373/.441/.651 with eight homers, one triple and nine doubles in 32 games at Double-A New Hampshire, adding a plus hit and above-average power tool to a skillset that already included good defensive reviews. He made two rehab appearances in the Florida Complex League earlier this month and is now headed to Buffalo for the first time. Two weeks won't make or break Moreno's breakout status in 2021, but it'll be helpful to have more info about his improvements at the plate.
Oneil Cruz, SS, Indianapolis (PIT No. 3/MLB No. 53)
Cruz got some looks at Double-A in 2019 and then spent the 2021 regular season back with Altoona, hitting .292/.346/.536 with 12 homers and 18 stolen bases in 62 games. He missed all of July and most of August with a right forearm strain, and it’s likely he would have reached Indianapolis earlier if not for that injury. The 6-foot-7 slugger still stands out for his plus power and killer arm at short, and he’ll finally get to exhibit those at Triple-A shortly.
Oswald Peraza, SS, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (NYY No. 3/MLB No. 59)
Peraza opened his age-21 season at High-A Hudson Valley and will end it at his third level of the campaign. The Venezuela native has been best known for his plus speed and impressive glove at the premium position of shortstop, but his offensive skills took a promising jump in 2021. Prior to this promotion, he hit .297/.358/.483 with 17 homers over 107 games between Hudson Valley and Double-A Somerset. The right-handed hitter also posted a 144 and 122 wRC+ at those two spots, respectively, reinforcing that he's comfortably been an above-average performer everywhere he's played this summer. The future of the Yankees shortstop position could be a fun competition between Peraza and Anthony Volpe in the times ahead -- if the club doesn't go after a big name this offseason -- and Peraza has a chance to get a leg up at Triple-A in these final weeks.
Cole Winn, RHP, Round Rock (TEX No. 3/MLB No. 61)
The 2018 15th overall pick has jumped into the Top 100 with a solid season, spent entirely at Double-A Frisco. His 0.82 WHIP was the lowest by any pitcher with at least 70 innings spent at Double-A this summer, while his 2.31 ERA placed second among that group of 94. He also struck out 97 over his 78 frames, thanks to an arsenal that includes four above-average to plus pitches. It's stuff that should play at Triple-A quickly, and that will be put to the test with at least one Final Stretch appearance.
Sam Huff, C/1B, Round Rock (TEX No. 5/MLB No. 93)
The Express is about to get some additional big-time power as well. Huff is known for his plus pop and showed that off at Double-A Frisco, where he hit 10 homers (including more than a few tape-measure shots) in 46 games. The 23-year-old has been limited this summer after undergoing knee surgery in the spring. Otherwise, he likely would have arrived at Triple-A much earlier. After all, he did play 10 games with the Major League club last summer. Following what could have been a lost summer, Huff's move to Round Rock could give him a much brighter note on which to end 2021.
Bryson Stott, SS, Lehigh Valley (PHI No. 2/MLB No. 99)
This also marks the third level of the season for the Phillies' top position-player prospect. The 23-year-old infielder hit .299/.386/.494 with 15 homers in 102 games between High-A Jersey Shore and Double-A Reading. (Eighty of those contests came at the higher level.) Taken with the 14th overall pick out of UNLV in 2019, Stott shows four above-average skills in his hit, run, arm and fielding tools, and that breadth of ability could serve him well in this two-week look with the IronPigs.
Korey Lee, C, Sugar Land (HOU No. 1)
The 2019 first-rounder has ticked a lot of boxes in his first full Minor League season. He’s shown decent offensive production with a .282/.348/.446 line and 11 homers over 80 games, primarily at High-A Asheville and Double-A Corpus Christi. He’s had little issue translating his 65-grade arm to the pros, having thrown out 22 of 51 (43.1 percent ) attempted basestealers as well. Jason Castro is the only Astros Major League catcher signed through 2022, so Lee, who already has one Triple-A West game under his belt, has a real chance to claim the position for his own over the long term.
Roansy Contreras, RHP, Indianapolis (PIT No. 6)
Acquired from the Yankees in a January deal for Jameson Taillon, Contreras was well on his way to a breakout season at Double-A Altoona with a 2.00 ERA, 64 strikeouts and only nine walks in his first eight starts (45 innings). Then like Cruz, he suffered a right forearm strain in late June and didn’t return to the Curve mound until Sept. 1. He has slowly built back with three starts this month, topping out at 3 1/3 innings, and will continue that work with Indianapolis. When he’s on, the 21-year-old right-hander throws in the mid-90s with his fastball and earns good reviews for a diving changeup.