Keith’s massive day at the dish claims spot in top MiLB moments of ’23

Detroit Tigers

In 2023, Minor League Baseball featured thrilling prospect debuts, electric performances and moments that went beyond the box score. All commemorated by the inaugural MiLB Awards on MLB Network.

Let’s look back on the year in MiLB.

On the Saturday of the Masters, High-A West Michigan broadcasters Dan Hasty and Nate Wangler transported fans from the diamond to the links by calling an at-bat in the style of a golf announcer. The calming tone and dulcet music set the scene as Hasty and Wangler used phrases like, “exquisite,” “short grass” and “looking at a pitch from about 60 feet, 6 inches.” The juxtaposition of the two sports styles made for a soothing, yet comical at-bat. “Baseball looks like hyperspeed compared to the way they commentate golf,” Hasty said with a laugh the next day. More »

The game where the hits don’t matter

Minor League Baseball is no stranger to unique no-hitters, especially in doubleheaders when the games are seven innings. On April 8, Double-A Chattanooga channeled “Moneyball” and proved it doesn’t matter how you get on base as the club scored seven runs on zero hits to beat Rocket City. The Trash Pandas were three outs away from winning, 3-0, when the Lookouts churned out five walks and four hit-by-pitches while also scoring three runs on a fielding error. The Angels affiliate got the no-no, but the Reds club got the “dub.” More »

PCA’s theatrics at third

RBI triples are already exciting plays, but Pete Crow-Armstrong took it up a notch. And then brought it again with the celly. The Cubs’ No. 1 prospect did everything in his power to make his foot reach third base for Double-A Tennessee. Was it a slide? Was it a leap? Was he safe? Who’s to say? Well, the umpire said he was safe, and so Crow-Armstrong unleashed a celebration that would make basketball player J.R. Smith proud. The son of actors truly put on a show. Crow-Armstrong went on to make his MLB debut in 2023 and win Defensive Player of the Year at the MiLB Awards, so big year all around. More »

If you can see it, you can be it

2023 saw several women break through in on-field coaching positions across baseball. And on May 3, history reached new heights when High-A Hillsboro and Vancouver began a series. With Ronnie Gajownik managing the Hops and Ashley Stephenson coaching the Canadians, it marked the first time two women coaches squared off in a High-A game. “It’s great to see how far it’s come along, and it’s pretty cool to be a part of and to see other females succeed in their own roles and in their own dreams,” Gajownik said. “It’s cool that you don’t necessarily have to look into one dugout [to see a female coach], you can look into two.” More »

Just under five months after announcing he was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Liam Hendriks made his inspirational return to game action. The 34-year-old underwent chemotherapy treatments while managing to get reps on the mound, and on April 20, he announced he was in remission. On May 5, Hendriks made his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Charlotte, receiving a standing ovation from both teams, as well as the fans, during his warmups. And for a cherry on top, Hendriks pitched a perfect inning. The Australian hurler was back in the Majors with the White Sox three weeks later. More »

In many ways, 2023 was the year of the exploding whale. In 1970, local officials in Oregon blew up a deceased whale that had washed ashore in hopes of an efficient cleanup by birds. The result was a comedy of errors that eventually went viral and made for an apparently perfect alternate identity for High-A Eugene. The club went all out with jerseys, stadium décor and more. And while some locals wish the event would be forgotten, the Giants affiliate used the opportunity to shine a light on the Oregon State Mammal Institute and the Marine Institute, which study challenges presented by climate change, as well as whale migration. More »

Best day at the plate ever?

There are milestones, and then there’s what Colt Keith did for Double-A Erie on May 16. In the first inning alone, the Tigers prospect knocked a two-run homer and a three-run triple. Keith led off the fourth with another dinger and added an RBI double in the fifth to put him a single shy of the cycle. The left-handed hitter completed the feat in the seventh, then added another base hit in the eighth for good measure. In total, Keith racked up six hits, seven RBIs and 15 total bases en route to earning the Best Single-Game Performance at the MiLB Awards. No Major Leaguer has ever hit for the cycle while reaching those hit and homer totals. More »

Ethan Salas started 2023 as the No. 1 international prospect, and he ended it as MLB’s No. 5 overall prospect. The Padres signed the catcher in January for $5.6 million and sent him straight to Single-A Lake Elsinore, skipping Rookie ball. On May 30, the 16-year-old Salas became the first 2006-born player to debut in the Minor Leagues, just two days before his 17th birthday. Salas’ power and defense earned the toolsy catcher a bump to High-A Fort Wayne and then to Double-A San Antonio. On Aug. 22, Salas became just the second 17-year-old at Double-A since 2006, following Michael De León’s one-game appearance with Frisco in ’14. Salas made his first knock at the new level a good one too, ripping a walk-off double in the 10th for the Missions. He went on to win the MiLB Award for Debut of the Year. And he won’t turn 18 until June. More »

Impressive Jo Adell homers were commonplace in 2023 — he even capped a six-game dinger streak with a two-homer game in April — but his 20th blast for Triple-A Salt Lake was especially majestic. On June 20, Adell took a 3-0 slider from Austin Hansen and launched it 514 feet to center with a 113.6 mph exit velocity for a game-tying three-run moonshot. No other Major or Minor League homer tracked by Statcast crossed 500 feet in 2023. And even more impressively, it’s the longest-measured rocket since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The Angels outfielder certainly knows how to take flight. More »

The 2023 Draft class made quite the entrance with all but two first-rounders making their pro debut last summer. And that starts at the top with No. 1 overall pick Paul Skenes. MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 prospect retired all three batters he faced in his first start for the Rookie-level Pirates on Aug. 10 in the Florida Complex League. Skenes dialed it up to 101 mph, throwing 10 fastballs in 11 pitches. The LSU product spread the wealth with a groundout, a fly out and then a strikeout of No. 5 overall pick Walker Jenkins to close out the frame. More »

Salas wasn’t the only teenager who made history this year. Before he inked a record-setting deal, Jackson Chourio made waves on the diamond. In his third pro season, MLB’s No. 2 overall prospect utilized his 60-grade power and 70-grade speed to reach career highs of 22 homers, 91 RBIs and 44 stolen bases across the Brewers’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Of the five Minor Leaguers to reach the 20-40 club in 2023, Chourio was the youngest. The 19-year-old became the fifth teenager since at least 1958 to post a 20-40 season in the Minors and first since Ronald Acuña Jr. did so in 2017. More »

Double trouble on the basepaths

With a slew of new rules introduced over the past three seasons, like pickoff limits and bigger bases, stolen bases are up across baseball. But the buzz around the bags reached another level this year with the race between Cardinals prospect Victor Scott II and Rays prospect Chandler Simpson. Scott bested MiLB for the first half, but Simpson was in the driver’s seat for July and August, leading to an exciting finish in September. The pair ended with 94 apiece, marking the first time since 2012 (Billy Hamilton, Delino DeShields and Rico Noel) that multiple Minor Leaguers stole 90+ bases in the same year. There was a brief time when Scott was at 95, but a delayed scoring change brought the leaderboard back to even. More »

This year’s Triple-A National Championship featured one of the most loaded matchups in recent memory between Norfolk and Oklahoma City. While the Dodgers kept it close, the Tides were victorious in Las Vegas. A part of the best farm system in baseball, the Orioles affiliate boasted four of MLB Pipeline’s top 50 prospects, including No. 1 Jackson Holliday. Colton Cowser, the No. 14 overall prospect, led the way with a go-ahead 455-foot grand slam to earn MVP honors. With many of the Norfolk roster sure to reach the Majors in 2024, Gunnar Henderson’s AL Rookie of the Year could be just the beginning for Baltimore. More »

And the MiLB Award goes to…

The inaugural MiLB Awards had everything — top prospects, mascots and a bat dog. Hosted by MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian, with appearances from Ben Hill, Jonathan Mayo and Kannapolis canine Kacey Betty, the show celebrated prospect talent like Holliday taking Hitter of the Year, as well as club genius with the Amarillo Calf Fries winning Best Alternate Identity. The show also highlighted notable homers, food and moments from across the Minor Leagues, making it the perfect bow on another incredible year. More »

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