The hype is real this week on Big Hype Prospects. Numerous notable youngsters are among the top performers in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.
Five BHPs In The News
Jordan Walker, 20, OF, STL (AA)
536 PA, 19 HR, 22 SB, .306/.388/.510
Walker is fourth among qualified spring hitters with a 1.429 OPS across 28 plate appearances. He’s already popped three doubles and three home runs. This column has covered Walker’s scouting traits many times. His hot play is putting him in the picture for an Opening Day role, though such an assignment is unlikely for numerous reasons. The sad truth is club control is an important consideration for teams when choosing a debut date. While new rules offer some consolation, the terms* are rather difficult to achieve. Additionally, the Cardinals have a deep roster. Nolan Arenado covers Walker’s natural position of third base. He’s converted to outfield where Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar, Alec Burleson, and Juan Yepez are also in the mix. In addition to competition and control incentives, Walker isn’t on the 40-man roster nor does he have any experience in Triple-A.
*Namely, two new rules. A player is awarded a full year of service if they finish top two in Rookie of the Year voting. A team can gain extra draft picks if a “top prospect” makes the Opening Day roster and later finishes top three in rookie voting or top five in MVP/Cy Young voting.
Brett Baty, 23, 3B, NYM (MLB)
(AA) 394 PA, 19 HR, 2 SB, .312/.406/.544
Another frequent guest of BHP, Baty is currently sixth-best among qualified hitters with a 1.208 OPS. He has one double and one home run. He spent most of 2022 in Double-A, though he had brief trials in Triple-A and the Majors. He didn’t look overmatched in his debut even though the end results weren’t impressive. An uncharacteristic .179 BABIP entirely explains his modest 71 wRC+. Baty is competing with Eduardo Escobar who could find himself in a utility role if Baty wins the third base job. There’s also room in the designated hitter competition where Daniel Vogelbach, Darin Ruf, and Tommy Pham are expected to see the bulk of the action. None of those veterans should be considered a lock to make the Mets roster.
Anthony Volpe, 21, SS, NYY (AAA)
(AAA) 427 PA, 24 HR, .280/.358/.519
Yet another player who has been covered ad nauseum by this column, Volpe is on the cusp of his big league debut. His 1.097 OPS looks strong in the early going. In addition to a home run and two doubles, he also has three stolen bases. Volpe’s path to the starting shortstop role should be viewed as an uphill battle if only because the Yankees have given themselves a number of difficult decisions to make this spring. Volpe is plagued by the same criteria that could give the Cardinals pause regarding Walker. Additionally, Volpe has identifiable flaws as a hitter – most notably, a fly ball-oriented swing. He could find himself with a low BABIP in the Majors, especially since many pitchers have become adept at attacking this hitting profile.
Oscar Colas, 24, OF, CWS (AAA)
(AA) 225 PA, 14 HR, 1 SB, .306/.364/.563
Colas surged through the White Sox system last season, making stops in High-, Double-, and Triple-A. His time in Double-A was his most meaningful performance. He only accrued 33 plate appearances in Triple-A. Colas has a bead on Chicago’s right field job where first baseman Gavin Sheets is seen as the main competition. Colas is batting .429/.455/.476 in 22 spring plate appearances. He is known for making impactful contact. Like many products of the White Sox farm system over the years, he has a detrimentally aggressive plate approach. His first test in the Majors will be laying off competitive pitches outside of the zone. Many a prospect with comparable tools and discipline to Colas failed to stick in the Majors.
Drey Jameson, 25, SP, ARI (MLB)
(AAA) 114 IP, 8.61 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, 6.95 ERA
Jameson is competing with Ryne Nelson and others for the Diamondbacks fifth starter job. He mostly relies on two fastballs and a plus slider, though he also features a curve and changeup. In three spring outings, he’s tossed 6.2 innings with eight strikeouts, five hits, two walks, a home run, and three runs allowed. Although he’s proven a tad homer prone throughout his development, a high ground ball rate helps to salve the sting. He has the raw traits of a future workhorse. Within the next couple seasons, he could click in much the way Logan Webb clicked between his 2020 and 2021 campaigns. For those concerned about his Triple-A numbers, those are at least partly an artifact of circumstance. Reno’s starters combined for a 5.24 ERA which ranked fifth out of 10 clubs in the PCL.
Cole Ragans, TEX (25): Ragans averaged 92.1-mph with his heater last season so it raised a few eyebrows when he hit 99-mph the other day. With a number of Rangers starters banged up, there’s a decent chance Ragans will nab a start or two early in the season. I’m withholding enthusiasm until he maintains velocity in longer outings. At a minimum, the southpaw could really play up out of the bullpen.
Masyn Winn, STL (20): Though he has almost no chance of playing his way to an Opening Day assignment, Winn is making a favorable impression this spring. He has a 1.071 OPS in 17 plate appearances with a homer and two steals. Scouts want to see him adjust against competitive breaking balls but are otherwise enamored with the young shortstop. Defensively, he has an 80-grade arm but closer to 40-grade range and footwork. The arm ensures he’ll stick on the left side of the infield.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, CIN (23): Acquired in the Tyler Mahle trade, Encarnacion-Strand has slugged at every stop along the ladder. He’s expected to reach Triple-A early this season if not right out of the gate. In 18 spring plate appearances, he has 11 hits including a double and three home runs. The profile reads like a more compactly built Franmil Reyes.