30 hitting prospects off to 🔥 starts

Detroit Tigers

For all of 2020, we could only guess about how hitting prospects were progressing. With the return of Minor League action this year, it’s been very exciting to actually be able to check in to see how they’re swinging the bat. The 30 prospects featured below have been enjoying the return to game action more than most.

Blue Jays: Gabriel Moreno, C (No. 7)
Moreno has enjoyed some success in the Minors before but has taken matters to a new level with his play early in 2021. Entering Thursday, the 21-year-old backstop is hitting .382/.453/.618 with three homers and four doubles through 14 games at Double-A New Hampshire. His 1.071 OPS ranks fourth in Double-A Northeast, 13 spots above the nearest catcher — Adley Rutschman. With a knack for making loud contact, the pieces are there for Moreno to keep hitting in the upper Minors.

Orioles: Gunnar Henderson, SS (No. 5/MLB No. 97)
It’s a battle of shortstops, as Jordan Westburg has also gotten off to a very strong start. But his teammate Henderson is hitting .338/.407/.676 at age 19. He leads all of the Minor Leagues with his 30 RBIs and tops all O’s Minor Leaguers with 48 total bases.

Rays: Vidal Bruján, 2B/OF (No. 2, MLB No. 39)
Perhaps one of the most surprising developments from a Top 100 prospect so far this season has been Bruján’s power. The switch-hitter’s career high for home runs is nine. He already has seven through 19 games for Triple-A Durham. The other pieces of Bruján’s profile are still there as well; he’s showing a good overall hit tool with a .325 average, and his top-of-the-line speed has earned him nine steals in 10 attempts. If this jump in pop is real, Bruján has a chance to surge up prospect boards, if he doesn’t make the Majors first.

Red Sox: Tyler Dearden, OF (unranked on Red Sox Top 30)
Dearden’s power potential earned him an over-slot $140,000 bonus in 2017’s 29th round out of a New Jersey high school, but it wasn’t apparent when he slugged .383 in his first three pro seasons. He has already established a new career high with five homers in 16 games this year while batting .308/.463/.692 and leading the High-A East in on-base percentage and OPS (1.155).

Yankees: Trevor Hauver, 2B (No. 23)
A third-round pick out of Arizona State last summer, Hauver made his pro debut by homering in each of his first five games this spring. He hasn’t gone deep since then, but still has fine overall numbers at .324/.489/.676 and tops the Low-A Southeast in homers (six), RBIs (21), walks (23) and total bases (46).

Indians: Owen Miller, INF (No. 16)
Miller got off to a blazing start in Triple-A, batting .406/.457/.609 in 16 games to earn his first big league callup on May 23. Part of the Mike Clevinger trade with the Padres last summer, he’s a gifted hitter who has gone 1-for-13 in his first three games in the Majors.

Royals: Nick Pratto, 1B (No. 9)
Forget Pratto’s struggles at the plate. Those are so 2019. Royals officials raved about Pratto’s slight swing alterations and adjustments when it came to pitch selection dating back to last year’s alternate training site, and now we’re all seeing the results. Pratto leads the Double-A Central in homers (seven), walks (17), slugging percentage (.734) and OPS (1.193). His .459 OBP places him second in the circuit. As a first baseman, the left-handed slugger must clear a high bar offensively to show value. There is a lot more optimism on his ability to do so these days.

Tigers: Jacob Robson, OF (unranked on Tigers Top 30)
The 2016 eighth-rounder spent all of 2019 at Triple-A Toledo and is now back at Double-A Erie, so take this with the necessary grains of salt. But you can only perform where you play, and Robson is certainly performing for the SeaWolves. The 26-year-old outfielder is hitting .424/.531/.712 with 13 extra-base hits and four steals through 18 games. He leads all Double-A hitters in average, OBP, OPS and extra-base hits and is tied at the top with 28 hits. Once a ranked prospect, Robson was lauded for his plus speed, but has fallen off due to struggles with the bat. At the very least, this start should reinvigorate his own confidence. His next stop: playing for Canada in Olympic qualifiers.

Twins: Matt Wallner, OF (No. 13)
A wrist sprain just landed the slugger on the injured list, but before that the Twins’ Competitive Balance Round A pick in 2019 was off to a very good start with a .333/.384/.621 line in 17 High-A games. The approach is still a concern (28/5 K/BB ratio and a 38.4 strikeout rate) but the power is legit, with nine extra-base hits in 66 at-bats. His .621 SLG puts him third in the High-A Central.

White Sox: Jake Burger, 3B (No. 12)
The 11th overall pick in the 2017 Draft out of Missouri State, Burger hadn’t played a Minor League game since that summer because of repeated leg injuries and the coronavirus pandemic last year. He has had no problems making the jump from Low-A to Triple-A, hitting .273/.324/.636 with six homers in 15 games.

Angels: Kyren Paris, SS (No. 6)
Before landing on the injured list Wednesday, Paris had gone 7-for-14 with six RBIs over his last three games to bring his season line to .297/.423/.516. The 19-year-old is making his full-season debut and is 10th in the Low-A West in OBP and ninth in OPS (.939). There hasn’t been over-the-fence power, but he has nine extra-base hits and he’s third in stolen bases with three.

Astros: Jose Siri, OF (unranked on Astros Top 30)
Siri had a 24-homer, 46-steal season in Low-A in the Reds system in 2017, but his undisciplined approach caught up to him at the higher levels. He bounced to the Mariners and Giants on waivers last year before signing with the Astros as a free agent in November, and he’s off to a terrific start. He’s hitting .371/.400/.726 with five homers, four steals and a Triple-A West-best 28 RBIs.

A’s: Luis Barrera, OF (No. 7)
He’s hit pretty much everywhere he’s been, and this season has been no different. During his Triple-A debut in Las Vegas, Barrera hit .349/.429/.558 over 43 at-bats. He was in the top 20 in average, OBP and SLG, earning his first callup to the big leagues on May 18.

Mariners: Taylor Trammell, OF (No. 6/MLB No. 83)
Special shout out to Noelvi Marte (.346/.424/.593) and Julio Rodríguez (.318/.402/.576), but what Trammell has done since he got sent down to Triple-A can’t be ignored. Over his first 12 games, he’s hit .460/.473/.880 and made two straight Prospect Teams of the Week. He’s already fourth in the Triple-A West in total bases with 44 and leads the league with his 1.353 OPS.

Rangers: Curtis Terry, 1B (No. 26)
Terry was the Rangers’ best hitter in instructional league last fall and has continued to rake this season, batting .350/.409/.717 with six homers in 17 Triple-A games. A 13th-round pick from a Georgia high school in 2015, he generates a lot of bat speed and strength from a 6-foot-2, 258-pound frame.

Braves: Michael Harris II, OF (No. 10)
At what point does someone who keeps exceeding expectations officially raise that bar? Harris certainly is close after reaching full-season ball during his debut as a third-rounder in 2019 and now by getting off to a .347/.368/.514 start with a jump up to High-A. He hit in eight straight games heading into Thursday to raise his average 80 points. He’s now leading the High-A East in batting average.

Marlins: Jesús Sánchez, OF (No. 6)
Part of a 2019 trade with the Rays for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards, Sánchez got his first big league opportunity with the Marlins last August and went 1-for-25. He’s on the verge of earning a second chance after hitting .431/.461/.847 with three homers in his first 18 games. He leads the Triple-A East in batting, slugging, OPS (1.308), hits (31), triples (3), extra-base hits (13) and total bases (61).

Mets: Francisco Álvarez, C (No. 1, MLB No. 37)
Álvarez opened this season as the top prospect in the New York system for the first time. It didn’t take long for him to justify that spot. The 19-year-old backstop hit .417/.567/.646 with two homers and five doubles in 15 games with Low-A St. Lucie. He walked 15 times in that span and struck out on only seven occasions. The Mets noticed he wasn’t getting much of a challenge down in Florida and promoted him this week to High-A Brooklyn, where he joins fellow Top 100 prospects Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty in the Cyclones lineup.

Nationals: Gage Canning, OF (unranked on Nationals Top 30)
As somewhat expected, there has been a bigger emphasis on pitchers than hitters early on in the Nats system. But Canning has turned some heads with his power at High-A Wilmington. Playing at the same level in 2019, the 2018 fifth-rounder managed three homers in 101 games with Potomac. He has already gone deep four times in only 13 games with the Blue Rocks. Canning has a .302/.367/.651 line, and at 1.019, he is one of only four High-A East batters with a quadruple-digit OPS and 50 plate appearances. A 24-year-old repeating High-A should be dominating, but the fact that Canning is performing to this level is still encouraging.

Phillies: Cornelius Randolph, OF (Unranked on Phillies Top 30)
The former No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 Draft hasn’t lived up to expectations and has been left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft in the past. But perhaps he’s finally figuring things out in Triple-A, and he’s still only 23. Randolph has put up a .356/.433/.644 line. He’s sixth in the Triple-A East with his 1.077 OPS and ninth in average.

Brewers: Korry Howell, OF (unranked on Brewers Top 30)
There is only one High-A Central player with at least six homers and six steals at this early stage of the season. That is, of course, Howell, who has mixed six dingers with seven thefts through 19 games with Wisconsin. The 2018 12th-rounder is also hitting .296/.400/.620 in the early stages of the season for the Timber Rattlers. Howell was a Top 30 prospect in the Milwaukee pipeline at the end of 2019 due to his plus-plus speed, but concerns about the bat have dropped him since. If he can sustain this performance over the long haul at High-A, he will have played himself right back into that discussion.

Cardinals: Jordan Walker, 3B (No. 6)
Low-A Southeast (formerly the Florida State League) is supposed to be where hitters go to struggle and pitchers go to thrive. No one told last year’s 21st overall pick. Walker has taken his impressive bat speed to the Sunshine State, where he is hitting .333/.474/.600 with seven extra-base hits in 13 games. He is also exhibiting good strike-zone discipline with 10 walks through 57 plate appearances. It’s a great foundation on which Walker is trying to build his professional career.

Cubs: Nelson Velazquez, OF (unranked on Cubs Top 30)
Velazquez has displayed some of the best raw power in the Cubs’ system but produced uneven results since signing as a fifth-round pick out of a Puerto Rico high school in 2017. After missing the first week of the season recovering from tonsillitis, he has been on a tear, hitting .457/.474/.657 with two homers in 10 High-A games.

Pirates: Endy Rodriguez, C (No. 27)
Pirates fans have been yearning for a legitimate catching prospect for a while now and Rodriguez, obtained in the three-team deal that sent Joe Musgrove to the Padres, might be it (though he has work to do defensively). Making his full-season debut, Rodriguez is off to a .290/.351/.522 start with eight extra-base hits in his first 17 games.

Reds: Jose Garcia, SS (No. 4/MLB No. 91)
When Garcia was pressed into service in the big leagues last year, the one question was whether he’d impact the ball enough to eventually be a regular in Cincinnati. Back at a more appropriate level in Double-A, he’s showing there’s plenty of offensive upside. He’s hit .323/.394/.645 with six doubles, a triple and four homers. He’s third in the Double-A South in SLG and OPS.

D-backs: Alek Thomas, OF (No. 4, MLB No. 66)
Thomas’ Top 100 bonafides are built on his plus hit tool, good speed and impressive outfield defense, yet he’s looking like even more of a threat than his impressive scouting report would indicate. Thomas is hitting .338/.436/.615 with 11 extra-base hits through 17 games with Double-A Amarillo. His 1.051 OPS ranks second in Double-A Central, only behind Pratto’s 1.193. This level of offensive production, mixed with Thomas’ defensive skills, makes the outfielder a candidate to climb even higher up the Top 100 ranks.

Dodgers: Leonel Valera, SS (unranked on Dodgers Top 30)
Part of a Dodgers 2015-16 international class that cost $166.9 million, Valera signed for $50,000 out of Venezuela and is breaking out in his fifth pro season. He already has set a career high with six homers in 19 games and is batting .276/.325/.605 with five steals in High-A.

Giants: Joey Bart, C (No. 2/MLB No. 18)
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 Draft out of Georgia Tech, Bart reached San Francisco last summer after just 130 games in the Minors. He made one appearance with the Giants this year before heading to Triple-A, where he got off to a .351/.400/.676 start with three homers in 11 games before getting sidelined by a groin injury.

Padres: Dwanya Williams-Sutton, OF (unranked on Padres Top 30)
A 2018 fifth-round pick out of East Carolina, Williams-Sutton has shown plus raw power from the right side and above-average speed on the basepaths but didn’t quite put together the hit tool early in his career. The 24-year-old outfielder’s approach has been most impressive so far as he’s walked 10 times in 44 plate appearances with High-A Fort Wayne. Williams-Sutton owns a .273/.455/.515 line with two homers through 12 games, numbers that translate into a well-above-average 175 wRC+.

Rockies: Brenton Doyle, OF (No. 6)
A toolsy outfielder out of small Division II Shepherd, Doyle got people excited with a strong pro debut in rookie ball in the summer of 2019. He’s showing so far with a move up to High-A ball that perhaps that was no fluke. Doyle has a .289/.357/.513 line over 19 games. He has nine extra-base hits and five steals and currently stands sixth in the High-A West in SLG and ninth in OPS.

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