Big Hype Prospects: Cowser, De La Cruz, Rushing, Vientos, Keith

MLB Trade Rumors

Last week’s lead Big Hype Prospect, Andrew Abbott, is already on his way to the Majors. Let’s see if we can pull the trick two weeks in a row.

Five Big Hype Prospects

Colton Cowser, 23, OF, BAL (AAA)
186 PA, 8 HR 5 SB, .347/.484/.590

When he hit the injured list with a quad injury in mid-May, Cowser was playing his way into Major League consideration. Cowser returned to action over the weekend, going a combined 4-for-5 with two walks, a double, and a homer. He’s produced multiple hits in 14 of 39 games this season. Cedric Mullins is currently sidelined with a groin injury. Although replacement center fielder Aaron Hicks has played well in his absence, underlying metrics suggest Hicks is toast. The club also has a partial opening at designated hitter which can be filled on a more permanent basis by Anthony Santander. Cowser has the athletic ability to stick in center field, but he could be a truly plus defender in the outfield corners. There’s concern he’ll struggle against left-handed pitching early in his career. At worst case, he looks like a high-probability strong-side platoon hitter. That’s why he’s creeping towards Top 10 prospect status on many lists.

Elly De La Cruz, 21, 3B/SS, CIN (AAA)
186 PA, 12 HR, 11 SB, .297/.398/.633

My recent fantasy chat included at least a half dozen questions about when De La Cruz will debut. I don’t have any special insight into the Reds thought process. The decision is complex, made even more so due to new service time and draft pick compensation rules. Role playing as the Reds, there is a certain attractiveness to following the Corbin Carroll model. As you’ll recall, Carroll debuted in late-August and performed decently in his debut. He’s now on pace to handily win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. The timing of his initial promotion ensured he would be club-controlled through 2028 (a contract extension has since further extended the Diamondbacks control). A later debut for De La Cruz would ensure he’s under control through at least 2029.

Were it up to me, he would be in the Majors tomorrow. Of all prospects in the minors, he has the least to prove. To my eyes, he’s the most physically impressive prospect since Fernando Tatis Jr. Among his most impressive traits are a 93.4-mph average exit velocity with a 118.8-mph max EV. This season, Matt Olson leads the league with a hardest-hit ball of 118.6-mph.

Dalton Rushing, 22, C, LAD (A+)
188 PA, 7 HR, 1 SB, .261/.431/.507

Rushing has followed up a wild 2022 debut with an impressive, discipline-forward performance. Defensive reviews of the left-handed hitting catching prospect skew vaguely negative. He’s a high-effort receiver who will need to work hard to polish his game. Since his bat is so advanced, a move to a corner position might be required so he can progress through the minors at a more rapid pace. The Dodgers are blessed with a number of highly regarded catchers. They can certainly afford for Rushing to play elsewhere. It might be advisable to get Rushing’s bat in Double-A before he becomes too accustomed to a 19.7 percent walk rate. Discipline is an excellent trait to possess, but it needs to be coupled with selective aggression within the strike zone.

For clarity the speculation about Rushing moving off catcher is my own based on the Dodgers inventory. I’ve not seen a scout suggest it’s necessary.

Mark Vientos, 23, DH, NYM (MLB)
(AAA) 166 PA, 13 HR, .333/.416/.688

Vientos possesses (and gets to) incredibly consistent power in-game. Although he’s only hitting .188/.206/.281 in 34 plate appearances, his exit velocities (96.1-mph average, 112.8-mph max) tell another story. Among hitters with over 30 plate appearances, only Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have tallied higher average exit velocities. While it’s in part a small sample fluke, Vientos did average 94.5-mph in Triple-A. The flaws in his game could limit his ceiling. In particular, he tends to make low-angle, pulled contact. He’s expected to be strikeout prone. He could find himself cast as a second-division starter or limited to facing certain pitcher types.

Colt Keith, 21, 3B, DET (AA)
217 PA, 10 HR, 1 SB, .321/.396/.563

Keith has built upon a breakout 2022 in High-A by doing much the same in Double-A. He’s even trimmed three points from his swinging strike rate. There’s risk he’ll continue to move down the defensive spectrum. He was being trained as a second baseman last season, but he’s made only three starts at the keystone in 2023. His bat is his carrying characteristic, fueled by plus discipline and a willingness to ambush mistakes in the zone. Wherever he winds up defensively, his bat looks like it will play in the Majors.

Three More

Bryan Woo, SEA (23): The Mariners opted to jump Woo straight from Double-A for his debut last Saturday. His performance in Double-A was masterful (44 innings, 2.05 ERA). His first start, not so much (2 IP, 7 H, 6 R). Scouts have long loved the life and shape of his fastball. His slider and changeup remain works in progress.

Chase Hampton, NYY (21): One of the top-performing pitching prospects in the minors, Hampton is beginning to draw attention from scouts. His mid-90s fastball reportedly tunnels well with a plus slider and curve. As with many young power pitchers, his changeup lags behind his other offerings. Hampton has an 18.8 percent swinging strike rate in High-A.

Luken Baker, STL (26): A former second-round draft pick, Baker experienced a breakthrough in Triple-A this season, bashing 18 home runs in 244 plate appearances. He produced a 92.8-mph average and 113.5-mph max EV. Baker made his debut as the designated hitter on Sunday.

Did I miss a detail or nuance? DM me on Twitter @BaseballATeam to suggest corrections.

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