MLB Prospect Watch: 10 awards for 2021 minor-league season as Adley Rutschman, Yankees first rounder shine

With the common season coming to an finish later this week, we’re utilizing this — the season’s last version of Prospect Watch — handy out 10 accolades. Let’s get proper to it. 

As is commonly the case, there have been quite a few compelling candidates for this spot, together with Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez — and people are simply the perfect candidates among the many “high prospects.” There are a number of proper solutions, however we felt obligated to focus on one hitter. For us, that one is Rutschman. He hit .283/.397/.514 with 23 residence runs and almost as many walks (76) as strikeouts (83) throughout Double- and Triple-A. Oh, and he did it whereas offering above-average protection behind the plate. Rutschman will play within the majors subsequent season, albeit probably not till after the Orioles have suppressed his service time to their liking. Nonetheless, the No. 1 decide within the 2019 draft stays on observe to grow to be a star.

2. Pitcher of the yr: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles

Sure, one other Oriole. Rodriguez reached Double-A in June and did not miss a beat. He struck out 39 % of the batters he confronted whereas holding the opposition to at least one run or fewer in 11 of his 18 begins. That’ll play. Rodriguez has an influence pitcher’s body and a fleshed-out arsenal that features a large fastball and an improved changeup. As with Rutschman, he appears more likely to attain the Present someday in 2022. Rodriguez, by the way in which, was the ultimate first-round decide made by Dan Duquette’s administration. 

Volpe, New York’s first-round decide in 2019, had a pedestrian introduction to professional ball. He atoned for it this season by hitting .294/.423/.604 with 27 residence runs and 33 stolen bases throughout two ranges. Volpe’s underlying high quality of contact additionally improved, suggesting his breakout is extra reliable than not. Amongst minor-league hitters with at the least 400 plate appearances this season, he ranked third in on-base share; third in slugging; and first in FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric. 

4. Largest riser, pitcher: Taj Bradley, RHP, Rays

Once more, there have been any variety of candidates for this spot. We’ll give the nod to Bradley as a result of he had the bottom ERA (1.83) of any minor-league pitcher with at the least 100 innings. He has a starter’s body and a great fastball. It is to be seen if he can enhance both his slider or his changeup sufficient to have a second plus providing. Bradley’s strikeout and stroll charges remained near static after an August promotion to Excessive-A, which looks like a promising signal. The actual take a look at, Double-A, probably awaits him subsequent summer time.

5. Largest shock: Matt Brash, RHP, Mariners

The Mariners acquired Brash from the Padres final summer time in change for reliever Taylor Williams. Whereas Williams has since been designated for project after throwing six innings for the Padres, Brash has emerged as a reliable beginning prospect who might attain the majors subsequent season. (Oops.) In 10 begins on the Double-A degree, he struck out greater than 10 batters per 9 and decreased his stroll charge to below 4 per 9. Brash, whose supply seems to be like somebody making an attempt to imitate Max Scherzer from reminiscence, has a high-quality fastball-slider pairing. His well being and command will stay below scrutiny, nevertheless it seems to be just like the Mariners dedicated a heist.

Downs, a jack-of-all-trades center infielder, was the important thing piece of the Mookie Betts commerce for the Purple Sox. Again within the spring, he appeared sure to grow to be Boston’s beginning second baseman by {the summertime}. As a substitute, he spent the season at Triple-A, hitting simply .187/.269/.331 with an alarming 32.4 % strikeout charge. That’s, as baseball individuals are wont to say, not what you need. Downs is just 23 and he has sufficient of a observe file to provide him one other yr, nevertheless it’s truthful to have some concern.

7. Comeback gamers of the yr: MJ Melendez, C; Nick Pratto, 1B, Royals

Is it too cutesy to provide this honor to a pair of Royals? Perhaps a contact; we simply can not help however marvel on the turnarounds authored by Melendez and Pratto. Each had depressing seasons at Excessive-A again in 2019: Melendez hit for a .571 OPS with a Okay charge nearing 40 %, whereas Pratto had a .588 OPS. This yr, although, they’ve redeemed themselves whereas splitting the season between Double- and Triple-A. Melendez has a .999 OPS and a Okay charge under 22 %, and Pratto has a .968 OPS with good first-base protection. Witt (justifiably) receives many of the consideration paid to Royals prospects, however he will not be the one rookie who figures into their 2022 lineup in an enormous approach.

8. Greatest debuts for a 2020 draftee: Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers; Max Meyer, RHP, Marlins 

The pandemic’s shuttering of the minor-league season final yr meant that the majority draftees needed to wait till this yr to make their skilled debut. For our cash, the 2 people who made up most for misplaced time had been Spencer Torkelson and Max Meyer, or the Nos. 1 and three picks in 2020. Torkelson hit .262/.378/.533 with 27 residence runs throughout three ranges (he scuffled, understandably so, throughout his time at Triple-A). Meyer made 21 begins between Double- and Triple-A, posting a 2.38 ERA and hanging out greater than 28 % of the batters he confronted. Each ought to debut within the majors in 2022.

9. Greatest organizational yr: Rays

The Rays aren’t going to have the perfect farm system in baseball getting into subsequent spring, however this season has been a excessive word all the identical. All of their associates had been of their respective league’s postseasons, they usually’ve graduated a number of vital items of the big-league roster, together with wunderkind infielder Wander Franco and hard-throwing lefty Shane McClanahan. Add in Shane Baz, who might make his presence identified heading into the playoffs; the emergence of the aforementioned Taj Bradley (amongst others); and the Rays must be pleased with their minor-league yr.

10. Worst organizational yr: Cubs

We’re not going to bemoan this an excessive amount of due to the circumstances, however the Cubs’ 2020 draft class has had a suboptimal introduction to professional ball. First-round shortstop Ed Howard has a sub-.600 OPS; second-round reliever Burl Carraway has walked 46 batters in 35 innings; and so forth. It is too early to surrender on anybody, and the Cubs did infuse their minor-league system with a great quantity of expertise on the commerce deadline. Nonetheless, it hasn’t been essentially the most enjoyable summer time for Cubs followers the least bit. | MLB Prospect Watch: 10 awards for 2021 minor-league season as Adley Rutschman, Yankees first rounder shine


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