Image credit: Brayan Bello (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
With all 30 midseason Top 30 Prospects lists out, here’s a look at 10 of the players who raised their stock in the first half of the 2021 season.
Brayan Bello, RHP, Red Sox: Bello had one of the largest leaps of any prospect from the preseason to midseason, going from No. 20 to No. 6 on the Red Sox list thanks to an encouraging first half that culminated in an appearance at the Futures Game. Bello’s fastball jumped from sitting in the low 90s in 2019 to parking in the mid 90s and topping out at 99 mph this season, although it plays down due to a lack of deception and little movement. He has two swing-and-miss weapons in his mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup. The slider has three-quarter tilt and plays well against both lefthanded and righthanded bats, and the changeup has some sinking life and good deception. The ingredients are there for a mid- to back-of-the-rotation starter, but Bello needs to continue improving his fastball command.
Oswaldo Cabrera, 2B, Yankees: Cabrera has added a significant amount of strength, which has translated to a higher average exit velocity and 14 home runs at Double-A, six more than his previous career high. Cabrera draws raves for his leadership skills, and he’s worked hard to improve his body while showing the ability to play shortstop in addition to second base. He looks like a promising future utility option at the big league level, and his jump in play led to him going from unranked in the preseason to No. 16 on the Yankees’ midseason list.
Dustin Harris, 3B, Rangers: One of two players to be named later acquired in the August 2020 deal from the Athletics for lefthander Mike Minor, Harris has exceeded all expectations since arriving in the Rangers organization, hitting .300/.386/.471 with nine homers and 20 stolen bases at Low-A to earn a promotion to High-A on Aug. 3. Beyond the numbers, Harris shows solid zone awareness and an impressive ability to barrel baseballs consistently and solid power that should translate into more homers as he matures. Harris has an athletic, 6-foot-2, 185-pound build and the Rangers want to continue playing him at third base, but he could also profile in a corner outfield spot.
Logan Hofmann, RHP, Pirates: Hofmann parlayed an outstanding 2020 season at Northwestern State, where he struck out 38 and walked five over 28 innings, into a fifth-round selection in the 2020 draft by the Pirates. He’s continued to show impressive swing-and-miss stuff while splitting time between starting and relieving at Low-A Bradenton, with a 32.6% strikeout rate in 55 innings and a 4-2, 2.95 mark. The 21-year-old righthander relies heavily on a high-spin, low-90s fastball, but mixes in a plus, high-spin power curveball that’s the most formidable offering in his four-pitch mix.
Manuel Mercedes, RHP, Giants: Mercedes, signed in the same July 2019 international class that produced shortstop Aeverson Arteaga, made his pro debut this season in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League, pitching to a 2-3, 4.32 mark with 34 strikeouts and 14 walks in 33.1 innings through eight starts. At 6-foot-3, 162 pounds, Mercedes has an athletic build with some projectability remaining. He is already getting his fastball up to 98 mph to go with a swing-and-miss weapon in his breaking ball.
Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins: Miranda worked hard in the offseason to get in better shape, improve his approach and shrink his strike zone and the adjustments have translated into one of the best seasons of any player in the minor leagues. The 23-year-old corner infielder cruised through Double-A, hitting .345/.408/.588 with 13 home runs in 47 games, and has looked just as potent since earning a promotion to Triple-A. Miranda is a below-average fielder at third base, but his plus hit tool and solid power make him a legit everyday player in the big leagues.
Jhailyn Ortiz, OF, Phillies: Before the 2021 season Ortiz was known for having prodigious power but rarely being able to access it, but he took a big step forward in the first half of 2021 after showing up in the best shape of his career. Thanks in part to an improvement in his bat speed, Ortiz mashed 13 home runs in the month of July alone, leading to a promotion to Double-A Reading on the last day of the month. The swing-and-miss issues that have plagued Ortiz are still there, but with his power, solid defense and surprising speed for his size he should find a role in the big leagues.
Levi Stoudt, RHP, Mariners: Coming out of Lehigh in 2019, Stoudt drew strong grades for a repeatable delivery and a consistent release point, but did not have excellent stuff. Two years later, the calculus has changed. Stoudt’s fastball went from sitting 91-95 mph in 2019 to 94-98 mph this season, his slider has become a consistent plus weapon, sitting in the high 80s and getting plenty of swings and misses, and his split-grip changeup gives him a third plus offering. Stoudt still needs to throw more strikes, with 4.1 walks per nine innings in 12 starts, but he’s pitched well at High-A and offers mid-rotation upside.
Jake Suddleson, OF, Athletics: The 2019 Ivy League Player of the Year, Suddleson went unselected in the 2020 draft out of Harvard but quickly signed a free agent deal with the Athletics in July 2020. The 23-year-old outfielder made quick work of High-A Lansing before earning a promotion to Double-A in early June, and he’s raised his average every month at the level. Suddleson is a patient hitter with a strong approach at the plate, he’s an average runner and has played impressive defense in right field. He profiles as a fourth outfielder at the big league level.
Cayne Ueckert, RHP, Cubs: The Cubs appear to have found a steal in Ueckert, who was drafted in the 27th round in 2019 from McNeese State. The 25-year-old righthander has excelled at Double-A Tennessee, with a 1-1, 1.67 mark, 31 strikeouts and 11 walks in 27 innings while giving up just 11 hits. Ueckert is competitive and combines a fastball that sits in the mid 90s with a hard, high-80s swing-and-miss slider. He looks like a candidate to fill a role in the back of the Cubs bullpen starting at some point in 2022.