20 Prospects Impressing MLB Scouts In Spring Training
Yesterday, Baseball America released its annual look at which players could be in for big seasons based on what scouts are seeing in spring training. The list primarily comprised of players who are in the major leagues, project to reach the majors this year or, at the very least, will start the season in the upper levels of the minors and be in striking distance of the majors.
Across complexes in Arizona and Florida, however, many more prospects have stood out on the back fields and during big league spring training games. Here are 20 more players scouts highlighted for the upcoming season, all prospects.
All scouts are employed by MLB clubs and were granted anonymity to speak freely. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Andrew Baker, RHP, Phillies
“He’s been up to 100 mph out here on the back fields. It’s definitely control over command but he’s got feel for a secondary and flashing some pretty nasty breaking balls. Was a catcher mostly in high school and just started pitching in college, so he’s a guy that still has some development and if it clicks, it could be ‘Look out.’ He’s got big stuff. He sat 95-98 and I’ve seen him touch 100. Certainly an interesting arm for the Phillies.”
Tanner Bibee, RHP, Guardians
"He’s looked pretty good so far. His fastball velo has been pretty volatile but he’s been up to 98 mph with a good slider. I think he probably ends up as a reliever, but kind of an interesting guy so far and definitely a follow for this year. He was like 93-95 his first five, six fastballs and then all of the sudden he was 97-98 by the end of his first inning. Command was all right, not quite as good as his numbers at (Cal State) Fullerton, but he was pretty much in the zone."
J.J. Bleday, OF, Marlins
"This time last year it was not good. He just looked very ordinary. Well, he made some adjustments toward the end of last year. He started getting to his power more, started getting more of a load, getting more of his lower half into his swing, all things he needed to do. And this spring, he’s brought those on plus his body is much more physical. He has added some good muscle. He is a strong dude right now. I thought he looked kind of not defined and slender and just not physically imposing last year. We’ll see how this approach works for him. It worked in the Fall League but the Fall League pitching was so bad. But he’s much more physical and much more impactful."
Hunter Brown, RHP, Astros
"He’s looked much improved. Much improved. I always had command and feel concerns with him and whether he was going to be a reliever with just two pitches, but he’s commanding 3-4 pitches pretty well. Just last September, he wasn’t doing that. It used to be just his fastball and a big nasty curve and fastball command was questionable. But now it’s all working. He’s added a little slider that’s very functional and his changeup is pretty good too. Something has clicked or seems to be clicking. That’s a great arsenal and he’s commanding it. If he can command it as well as he’s commanded it this spring, it’s a front-of-the-rotation starter. Before I thought he might just be a reliever with a fastball up in the zone, power curveball and that’s it. He’s a better pitcher now."
Ky Bush, LHP, Angels
“I think Bush was probably their best draft pick last year. Everything works. There was a ton of people who said he’s a reliever prior to the draft. I don’t think he’s a reliever. I think this guy is downhill, he’s got a fastball that plays, he’s got a slider that once he finds it is going to be filthy and he’s lefthanded. I’m not putting that guy in the bullpen yet. Didn’t have his curveball when I saw him, threw one changeup and pulled the string on it. Location wasn’t great but he still struck out a guy. For me, that’s the best arm I saw that they took out of the draft.”
Dominic Canzone, OF, D-backs
“This guy is great. He reminds me so much of Kole Calhoun. Grinder, hits the ball hard, no matter where you put him he makes plays. Every time he’s in the game he makes a diving play or throws someone out. Does something always in the game. Hits the ball hard, hits a home run. First AB this spring, hits a home run. Then goes out and makes a diving catch in left-center field. Every time I see him he stands out. He’ll be up this year.”
Jackson Chourio, OF, Brewers
“First play of the game yesterday, he’s in center field and he robs a homer. Kid just turned 18 and he’s mixed between playing infield and outfield, so for a guy who is that young and has that little experience in the outfield to have that feel going back on a ball to left-center and rob a homer first play of the game, that will definitely stand out. For as young as he is, he’s very focused and didn’t give away too much at the plate. Works counts, knows the zone well, the swing works, good body, frame is good. There’s a lot to like here.”
Irv Carter, RHP, Blue Jays
“He threw the ball really well for me. I saw him in instructs last year and he’s cleaned up his delivery. Looks smoother. Does the whole Marcus Stroman shimmy. He’s got a feel to pitch, really athletic and his velocity has taken off since high school. He’s sitting 93-94, touching 96. He’s got some projection left too. He was impressive the other day. From instructs and just seeing the progress he’s made in his delivery, before it was kind of crude, had a bit of a rough arm action, but it looks like they’ve cleaned it up since then and it looked pretty good.”
Elly De La Cruz, SS/3B, Reds
“He’s a five-tool kid and a switch-hitter. I’m not smart enough to say he can’t stay at shortstop even though he has grown. I didn’t see a swing-first approach. I saw a guy who has pitch recognition and some ability to manage the zone for the most part from both sides. He’s got a chance to be one of the top, if not the top, position player prospects in a couple years.”
Joey Estes, RHP, Athletics
“He’s athletic and explosive. Little bit inconsistent getting around that slider, but once he got through it, it finished pretty well. Fastball really plays. Sitting 94-96. The operation you’d think reliever, but it’s a little bit interesting. Just the athleticism, arm speed, there are enough strikes. There is a little bit of ‘How is he going to hold up in a rotation workload?’ That was a concern for me on first impression, but he held up last year and it’s a good arm. With modern roles and what constitutes a starter now, I can see it happening.”
Harry Ford, C, Mariners
“Absolutely looks the part. Love his approach at the plate. Swing is good. He’s an athletic dude. That’s an org that teaches one knee all throughout so it’s going to be difficult to judge his defense. But from all signs of him as an overall player, the athlete he is, the type of hitter he is, lot of good signs. This is a guy who is going to work counts, he’s comfortable hitting in any count, swing is simple and it’s just straight to the ball. Great body, strong guy, looks like if he went to college he would have been a college wrestler. It’s that type of frame. I’ve been really impressed by him.”
Kohl Franklin, RHP, Cubs
“He’s super juiced up in Cubs camp. He’s like 96-99 with a firm fastball and an above-average changeup and above-average breaking ball. I stuffed him. I stuffed him super high. With the lost season and then obviously the injury (last year), he hasn’t really gotten a pathway in pro ball to consistent innings, but he’s super interesting. It’s a good delivery, good arm, athletic body and it’s real stuff. He’s really high for me. He’s the story right now of Cubs camp. He’s easily the best pitching prospect in their organization. He has some of the biggest stuff I’ve seen on the back fields this year.”
Brady House, SS, Nationals
“He’s hitting bombs. He’s probably not a shortstop, jury is still out, but luckily they don’t have enough other shortstops to force him off it anytime soon. Probably third base if I had to guess, maybe even first base depending on how much he bulks up, but he’s hitting nukes. No doubt about the bat.”
Marcelo Mayer, SS, Red Sox
“That guy looks the part. He’s comfortable in the box, great body, little bit bigger load than I expected but has plenty of bat speed. Ran well, had a great read on a first to third, just all-around he was impressive. He did not look out of place on a major league field at his age or experience level. Boston’s future middle infield, him and Nick Yorke, they did not look out of place on a big league field.”
Coby Mayo, 3B, Orioles
“He’s had a really nice spring. The ball explodes off his bat. It’s loud contact. You put 70 raw power on him, that’s doable. I think he has really big future raw power. He’s not 100% there yet, but he’s learning to pull the ball with authority. He’s made nice progress. It’s been a very impressive spring. He might have to be a first baseman or a left fielder, but he plays hard and he’s good and he has a feel for hitting.”
Grant McCray, OF, Giants
“He may be their most athletic player. I saw him in a big league game hit a laser for a home run after struggling in some previous at-bats where he was late, but even when he was late, he was hitting it on the sweet spot of the bat. It was just a timing thing and then he made an adjustment and he turned on one. Then later I saw him steal second and you can see the power-speed combo. And defensively, I think he’s going to stay in center field. This kid, it could be a breakout year for him. Between him and (Luis) Matos, there’s two young center fielders there who can stay at a premium position.”
Parker Meadows, OF, Tigers
“He’s been hitting the ball good. He’s squaring it up. He’s gotten a little bit stronger. I still think he’s a ways away, but at least he’s making positive strides. I think it’s just strength. I really do. Same thing with his brother. You said 'yes, yes, yes' and by the time you said 'nah, I don’t know' he got traded and was really good. He can run. He can defend. He can play. It was just strength and now it’s coming.”
Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees
“He’s been great. Playing with so much energy. Made a nice diving play to his backhand, diving throw, and this is in a Triple-A back fields game. It’s really neat to see those guys, you hear they have great makeup and they play the game the right way, but it’s just fun to see them actually do it and back it up and give that kind of energy in such a non-fan environment. Hitting lasers all over the field, tagged up on a short fly ball to left field, close play at the plate, this guy was all over the place.”
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies
“He’s looked incredible out here. He looked pretty good last year, but the talent he’s facing right now, he’s 20 years old and has only played in High-A, and he’s in big league camp, he’s hitting the (expletive) out of the ball and playing a plus shortstop. I’ve got a 55 bat on him and he’s going to grow into power. His approach is so aggressive, pretty much every at-bat he’s hunting a first-pitch fastball, but he’s also worked some counts and made some contact late in counts. He’ll have some struggles because of the plate discipline, but that kid is going to be a stud and be their shortstop of the future.”
Miguel Vargas, 3B, Dodgers
"He’s been really, really good this spring. He’s going to force his way up at some point. Defensive questions for sure. Probably going to end up at first base, but the bat is going to be more than enough to carry him. The defensive questions are going to be there, but he actually made a few plays at third base that made me think he has a chance to stay there. There’s plenty of arm. If he’s able to do that he’s going to be a pretty good player."