20 New Names Fans Should Get to Know
ALSO: KERSHAW, FRIED, OR FISH: PICKING NL'S STARTING PITCHER WON'T BE EASY
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Kansas City’s weak roster got even weaker when 10 players — count ‘em, ten — were banned from this weekend’s visit to Toronto by Ontario’s law against unvaccinated athletes performing in the province. The full list of names: Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Cam Gallagher, MJ Melendez, Brady Singer, Brad Keller, Kyle Isbel, Michael A. Taylor and Dylan Coleman . . .
Both Jansens — catcher Danny in Toronto and closer Kenley in Atlanta — came off the IL on the same day earlier this week . . .
Pittsburgh’s Jack Suwinski is the first rookie to produce a three-homer game that also included a walk-off shot . . .
From hero to goat: catcher Yermin Mercedes, an April 2021 wunderkind with the White Sox, fell so far that Chicago allowed him to leave for San Francisco on a waiver claim . . .
Even with trade bait like Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy in their bullpen, Arizona’s best reliever has been sinkerballer Joe Mantiply, the team’s only All-Star . . .
Detroit reliever Michael Fullmer went more than a month without yielding a run . . .
J.P. Feyereisen has succeeded injured Andrew Kittredge (out for the season) in the Tampa Bay bullpen . . .
Teams anxious to land a Lopez are talking to Miami about Pablo, a stingy starter, and to Baltimore about Jorge, who saved 10 of his first 12 chances this season.
Pop-up Prospects Jump Up Prospect Lists
By Benjamin Chase
Each season, guys who aren't known ahead of the season jump up on the scene and become consensus top-100 prospects by the end of the season. The 2022 season has already had impressive performances from a host of players.
To qualify for this list, the player could not be on any of MLB Pipeline's, Baseball America's, or Baseball Prospectus' top prospect lists before the season. These are not the only 20, but this is a selection of 20 to get to know:
The huge (6’6”, 220-pound) Alcantara was originally signed by the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 and acquired by the Cubs last summer as part of the Anthony Rizzo deal. Alcantara is making his first appearance in full-season ball with Myrtle Beach and showing impressive raw power and speed while splitting time between right and center field.
One of multiple Logan Allens in professional baseball at the moment, the 2020 second-round selection by Cleveland out of Florida International has rocketed through the minor leagues, already reaching Triple-A this season and ranking among the top 10 in all the minor leagues in strikeouts this season.
Signed by Colorado out of the Dominican in 2019, Amador showed incredible strike zone judgment in his pro debut last season, and in his full-season debut this year, he’s continued that while also flashing a combination of power and speed. He’s one of multiple pop-up Rockies prospects up the middle.
Arroyo was one of the youngest players in the 2021 draft out of Puerto Rico. The Mariners nabbed him in the second round, 48th overall. Arroyo won’t turn 19 until late August, but he’s already showing power and speed in full-season ball while handling shortstop impressively.
One of two players who have made their MLB debut this year, Bello jumped from Double-A to the big leagues with an impressive showing this year, ranking among the minor league’s strikeout leaders as he’s pitched across Double-A and Triple-A. The lean righty should get more chances with the Red Sox, but with his innings already near a career high, the team may consider him in a relief role going forward.
The Astros drafted Brown out of Wayne State with a fifth-round selection in 2019 and immediately were surprised with his impressive raw stuff. Brown has been nothing short of dominant in Triple-A this season.
Probably the single hottest name in prospects so far this year, Chourio has been a revelation this year for the Brewers. The Venezuela native was signed in January of 2021 and jumped straight from the Dominican Summer League in 2021 to full-season ball this year, and he’s been one of the most explosive players since joining Carolina a month into the season.
The Mets drafted the outfielder known as PCA with the 19th overall selection in 2020 out of high school and then traded him to the Cubs last year in the Javy Baez deal. Armstrong had just got on the field last year when a season-ending injury cut short his first pro exposure. He’s definitely making up for that this season, already earning a promotion to High-A with a surprising display of power to go with his excellent defense and balanced skill set.
The A’s selected Gelof out of Virginia in the second round last summer, and his bat has been impressive every step as a pro. His defensive future is in question, as he’s played second, third, and outfield this season, but Oakland will likely find a spot for a bat this productive.
The 22nd overall selection last summer out of high school in Indiana. Montgomery is a big, physical guy at 6’4”, so he’s likely going to eventually move to third base or a corner outfield spot. He’s already impressed enough to move up to High-A.
High school catchers are notoriously risky as a draft prospect, so when a high school catcher drafted in the 23rd round puts on an impressive offensive display returning from a pandemic year, you take notice. O’Hoppe did just that in 2021, and he’s actually improved in 2022, with much better plate discipline and continued growth with the bat.
An 11th-round selection out of Old Dominion in 2019, Pasquantino has done nothing but hit since his selection. At 6’4” and around 250 pounds, Pasquantino is defensively limited to first base or designated hitter, but his bat is worthy of that position. He was called up June 28 to Kansas City and has struggled a bit out of the gate, but he is drawing plenty of walks in early going.
One of the top talents in the 2019 international class, Ramirez made his full-season debut last season at 18, but struggled. This year, he showed well enough to earn a recent promotion to High-A as a teenager with an impressive combination of power and speed in his tool chest.
Romo could be the rare case of a high school catching prospect outperforming expectations. The Rockies selected Romo as the 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft, knowing he was an elite defender. His bat has been a surprise, however, as he’s hit over .300 hit entire minor league career to this point. At just 20, he’s pushing for a promotion to Double-A before season’s end.
The Blue Jays drafted Tiedemann in the third round of the 2021 draft out of junior college as a “crafty lefty” type. He then showed up for his pro debut this year pumping mid-90s gas, allowing his breaking stuff to play up. Tiedemann has already pushed up both A-ball levels this season and could finish in Double-A by season’s end.
While Chourio has been the guy getting publicity, Tovar has been the most impressive under-radar breakout this year as he’s shown improved plate discipline, power, speed, and excellent defense. Tovar could push for an appearance in Colorado in 2023.
Lanky lefty Waldichuk was originally drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 draft out of St. Mary’s. He’s always put up impressive numbers but an uptick in his velocity, paired with stronger command in 2022 has allowed him to move to Triple-A with success.
Westburg was drafted as the 30th overall selection in 2020 draft out of Mississippi State. The Orioles immediately worked him into a utility infield defense role, but his bat has allowed him to work as a potential starter that plays every day at multiple positions around the infield.
A legit prospect as a hitter or pitcher in the 2020 draft, Winn was expected to take time to develop as a shortstop. Defensively, he had premium talent, especially in his arm, but because he pitched plenty as a high schooler, the feeling was he would take time to develop as a hitter. Instead, this season, he’s flirted with .300 all season while pounding out extra base hits, stealing bases, and even earning a promotion to Double-A at just 20 years old.
An absolutely gigantic human being at 6’7” and listed at 240 pounds, Wood is still an impressive athletic specimen. The Padres took him in the second round of the 2021 draft out of IMG Academy, expecting that he may take some time to turn his athleticism into production on the field. Instead, he’s played an impressive center field at times while flirting with .300 all season and combining power and speed.
Benjamin Chase is a newspaper reporter in South Dakota that enjoys spending his free time watching all the baseball possible, at every level. He can be found weekly on the Pallazzo Podcast prospects half-hour on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Eastern or on Twitter at @biggentleben.
Picking NL’s All-Star Starter Won’t Be a Picnic For Pilot Brian Snitker
By Dan Schlossberg
As a rule, starting pitchers who work the Sunday before the All-Star Game will be bypassed for the Tuesday night All-Star Game.
But big guns like Max Fried and Max Scherzer, who faced each other in Atlanta Monday, should both be eligible.
In fact, National League manager Brian Snitker has a plethora of pitching choices.
If he wants his own guy, Fried would be a perfect fit. He not only pitched six scoreless innings in last year’s World Series clincher for Atlanta but has been lights-out this year after a pedestrian start.
Fried was born in Santa Monica, so he has Southern California roots. And he throws left-handed, which makes him especially valuable against such southpaw sluggers as Shohei Ohtani.
Clayton Kershaw, once idolized by Fried, is another port-sider with promise. A three-time Cy Young Award winner, he pitched seven perfect innings in his 2022 debut before departing. Plus he wears Dodger blue — a big inducement for a game in Chavez Ravine.
The best left-handed pitcher of his generation, he’s arguably the best in franchise history [Sandy Koufax had a short career]. Kershaw’s No. 22 will hang in left field among the retired Dodger numbers after his eventual Hall of Fame induction.
“I’m just grateful he’s healthy,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts of the veteran lefty, who missed a month with a back injury. “He’s done a lot to make sure he stays on the field. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-Star. He’s one of the best in baseball. He’s efficient. He’s prepared. He commands the baseball. And he can limit damage.”
Over the last week, Kershaw’s name has been at the forefront of All-Star conversation. Over his first 63 2/3 innings, his 2.40 ERA was enough to win him a spot on the National League squad.
Freddie Freeman, a former Kershaw foe who’s now a teammate, added, “He should be able to pitch in his home stadium. He’s been pitching like an All-Star this year.”
One thing missing from the Kershaw resume is an All-Star start. With the game in Los Angeles for the first time in 42 years, Braves manager Brian Snitker has a chance to give the veteran lefty that honor.
Then there’s Kershaw teammate Tony Gonsolin, who’s spent most of this season leading the majors in wins and earned run average. A right-hander, he should be able to throttle AL sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
But the best potential starter of all just might be Miami’s Sandy Alcantara. Until this year, he was the poster child for Non-Support. But the Fish have shown some life, especially lately, and their No. 1 pitcher has a reputation for lasting deep into games without giving up much of anything.
Scherzer could get the call too now that he’s back from an oblique strain that shelved him for seven weeks. The highest-paid pitcher in baseball history, Scherzer may be 37 but he’s still at the top of his game, always capable of throwing a no-hitter or winning a Cy Young. Plus he’s started four previous All-Star Games, including last year’s.
Neither Scherzer nor teammate Taijuan Walker, who’s also pitched well this year, was on the NL roster announced last weekend but that could change, especially when the Senior Circuit needs subs for pitchers who work this Sunday [both Fried and Scherzer are scheduled to pitch Saturday].
For Brian Snitker, he has to wonder whether it’s wise to reward his own guy or hold him back for a division title chase that figures to be excruciatingly close. Since All-Star starters usually go two innings tops, whomever he picks will probably be pushed back only a day or so.
I’m betting he rewards Max Fried. And I think he’ll get instant dividends from the decision.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ will be covering the All-Star Game and Hall of Fame Inductions for forbes.com. The author of 40 baseball books is available for speaking engagements and book signings. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Everyone knows my priority was to sign Freddie Freeman. When we didn’t, we had to prepare other options.”
— Alex Anthopoulos, Atlanta Braves president of baseball operations
After firing his agents in disgust, Freddie Freeman has told the Players Association he is going to represent himself and doesn’t want to hear from interested agents . . .
St. Louis third baseman Nolan Arenado has finished third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth in MVP voting but never first or second . . .
Cincinnati team president Phil Castellini was 12 the last time the Reds lost 100 games, way back in 1982 . . .
Maybe he wasn’t so bad after all: the Angels lost 15 of their first 25 games after dumping manager Joe Maddon . . .
Here’s betting that Maddon and Joe Girardi, also fired earlier this season, both return as managers in 2023.
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