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2021 Double-A Northeast Top 10 Prospects

Adley Rutschman (Photo By Dustin Bradford Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Eleven teams in Double-A Northeast were holdovers from the Eastern League. The exception was Somerset, which the Yankees plucked from the independent Atlantic League to supplant Trenton.

The league featured some of the premier prospects in baseball. Bowie and Erie were of particular interest because each featured a recent No. 1 overall pick. Adley Rutschman, the top pick in 2019, formed a battery with top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez for much of the year in Bowie, while 2020 top pick Spencer Torkelson drew plenty of interest in Erie alongside Riley Greene.

Even past the top names, Double-A Northeast featured extraordinary depth. Sixteen players on the end-of-season Top 100 Prospects qualified for the list, including a trio of players who spent the majority of their seasons on a must-watch New Hampshire Fisher Cats team in Austin Martin, Gabriel Moreno and Jordan Groshans.

1. Adley Rutschman, C, Bowie (Orioles)
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. HT: 6-2. WT: 216. Drafted: Oregon State, 2019 (1st round).

Rutschman was the consensus top prospect in the league this season, impressing managers with his maturity and presence both behind and at the plate before being promoted to Triple-A Norfolk in early August.

Rutschman mashed 18 home runs for Bowie, but evaluators also pointed to the carryover of his plate discipline from his college days. His walk rate of nearly 16% ranked fourth-best in the league among qualified hitters.

While Rutschman played 20 games at first base with Bowie, there were no concerns about his ability to stick at catcher, and he made big strides in both his pitch-framing and game-calling.

“He’s phenomenal,” Bowie teammate Grayson Rodriguez said. “When we have our postgame reports of all the pitches we made, and you see the pitches and where they’re at, it’s crazy to see how many balls he stole for strikes. The way he calls the game, and stuff like that, it’s elite.”

Adley Rutschman, C, Bowie (Orioles)29561801601855555712.271.392.508

2. Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B, Erie (Tigers)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 220. Drafted: Arizona State, 2020 (1st round).

Selected first overall in 2020, Torkelson was never going to be long for any minor league stop this year. He played in 50 games for Erie after a mid-June promotion from High-A. He was sent to Triple-A Toledo two months later.

Torkelson’s 80-grade raw power translated to the pro game to the tune of 14 homers and a .560 slugging percentage in 50 games for Erie. Long-time observers at Somerset’s TD Bank Ballpark could not ever recall a player hitting a ball completely over the batter’s eye in a game, as Torkelson did in early July.

Torkelson split his time between first base and third base nearly evenly but committed to first at Triple-A, but it’s his bat that will make him an MLB regular sooner than later. One manager compared Torkelson to Paul Goldschmidt, noting the gap-to-gap approach, average running ability and pop to all fields.

Spencer Torkelson, 1B/3B, Erie (Tigers)17533461001436305011.263.373.560

3. Riley Greene, OF, Erie (Tigers)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-3. WT: 200. Drafted: HS—Oviedo, Fla., 2019 (1st round).

Greene did not shrink from the challenge of sharing the Erie stage with Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Greene shined brightly in a season spent mostly at Double-A, making the BA Minor League All-Star Team.

Greene appeared most often in center field at Double-A before seeing more corner work after a mid-August promotion to Triple-A Toledo. Some evaluators think he’ll end up as an everyday big league right fielder given how much ground there is to cover at Comerica Park and Greene’s average to slightly above-average speed.

Greene showed power to match a corner profile by connecting for 16 home runs in 84 games with Erie. Several managers spoke highly of Greene’s work ethic, especially given his young age at just 20 years old, and were impressed by an even-keel approach off the field.

Riley Greene, OF, Erie (Tigers)3265997165165441102121.298.381.525

4. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Bowie (Orioles)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-5. WT: 220. Drafted: HS—Nacogdoches, Texas, 2018 (1st round).

Despite not making his Double-A debut until June 2 after beginning the year in High-A Aberdeen, Rodriguez was Double-A Northeast’s strikeout king, racking up 121 in just 79.2 innings.

Most managers around the league considered Rodriguez to be the top pitcher in the league, edging out Harrisburg righthander Cade Cavalli. Scouts believe the 21-year-old has a floor of No. 2 starter in the major leagues, with precision within the zone at times still slightly holding him back from reaching his potential.

At his best, Rodriguez could be a future ace.

“He can pitch as a big leaguer right now,” one National League scout said. “He has four pitches that are plus or better, and he knows what he’s doing with them and can locate them. When he’s on, he’s going to dominate the game. And when he’s not, he can still out-stuff hitters.”

Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Bowie (Orioles)612.601818080472623822121

5. Gabriel Moreno, C, New Hampshire (Blue Jays)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 170. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.

One American League scout said Moreno was the best player he saw this year at any level and believed that Moreno would have been the Blue Jays’ regular catcher this season if he had stayed healthy.

That’s how impressive the 21-year-old catcher was this season, albeit in a relatively small sample thanks to a thumb fracture suffered on a hit by pitch in late June that cost him nearly the rest of the season until a late cameo with Triple-A Buffalo.

Evaluators believe Moreno shows exceptional feel to hit—as evidenced by a .373 batting average helped by six games on the season with three or more hits— but were perhaps more blown away by his skills behind the plate. The Venezuela native is a plus defender, and he put that on full display by throwing out 44% of basestealers this season, showing a near-complete tool set and high upside.

“The question isn’t if he’s going to get the big leagues or how good he’s going to be in the big leagues. It’s how many All-Star Games is he going to be in for the next 10 years,” one National League talent evaluator said.

Gabriel Moreno, C, New Hampshire (Blue Jays)126294791845142212.373.441.651

Cade Cavalli Matthewstockmangetty

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6. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Harrisburg (Nationals)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 226. Drafted: Oklahoma, 2020 (1st round).

Cavalli lived up to his reputation as a power pitcher as he tore through Double-A Northeast in short order after an early-season promotion from High-A Wilmington. He served as one of the lone attractions on a Harrisburg team that finished 34 games under .500.

Opposing managers liked Cavalli’s mix of a high-90s fastball that touches 101 mph, a curveball he uses to get hitters to chase, a changeup and a plus slider but were concerned that he can be a little erratic at times. He issued four or more walks in four of his 11 Double-A outings before a late-August promotion to Triple-A Rochester, where he struggled to replicate his success with the Senators.

Several evaluators thought Cavalli might have better command working a few ticks down in his velocity range, and that he struggled most when approaching triple-digits. Most had his ceiling as a No. 1 or 2 starter if hs command progresses.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s going to be a leader and dominant personality in the clubhouse,” Harrisburg manager Tripp Keister said. “He’s going to make sure things are done properly and we’re playing the game right. He’s got a great team concept. He’s a special kid. His parents have done a great job with him.”

Cade Cavalli, RHP, Harrisburg (Nationals)332.80111105839191823580.188

7. Oneil Cruz, SS, Altoona (Pirates)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-7. WT: 210. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2015 (Dodgers).

League managers walked away impressed by Cruz this year. At least those who got to see him felt that way.

A physical specimen at 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Cruz missed seven weeks due to what the Pirates described as a mild right forearm strain, but he didn’t seem to miss a beat upon coming back, racking up seven multi-hit games after his Aug. 20 return.

Preseason plans to get Cruz some time in center field ultimately never materialized, and evaluators varied in their concern about his ability to stick at shortstop at his height. One evaluator believed the lanky Cruz may end up as a corner outfielder, though that was not the consensus.

Opposing managers spoke glowingly about Cruz’s confidence at the plate, with several using the term “game changer” to describe the impact he’ll make in the big leagues with his power potential.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Altoona (Pirates)250517315512402064183.292.346.536

8. Brayan Rocchio, SS, Akron (Indians)
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. HT: 5-10. WT: 150. Signed: Venezuela, 2017

One of the youngest players in the league at just 20, Rocchio made an immediate impact for Akron after a July promotion from High-A was necessitated by a Tyler Freeman injury.

Multiple evaluators compared the switch-hitting shortstop with Francisco Lindor, who came up through the Indians’ system and actually reached Double-A at the age of 19.

“If you told me Rocchio ended up being that good, it would be a little surprising, but it wouldn’t be very surprising,” one American League scout said.

Not considered to be the best athlete—he is an average runner at best—Rocchio dazzles in the field with his both his range up the middle and ability to quickly get rid of the ball in an accurate fashion, but has also shown a significant increase in power at the plate. He went deep six times with Akron, but hit 15 overall between his two stops this year.

Brayan Rocchio, SS, Akron (Indians)1843454134630134174.293.360.505

9. Triston Casas, 1B, Portland (Red Sox)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-5. WT: 245. Drafted: HS—Plantation, Fla., 2018 (1st round).

Casas spent nearly the entire season in Portland, save for a trip to Tokyo to play in the Olympics and then a late-September promotion to Triple-A Worcester. He showed improvements in several significant metrics.

Key among those improvements was an improvement in strikeout rate. Casas cut that rate from 23.5% in 2019 to 19.1% this year as he rose from Low-A to Double-A.

Some expressed concern that Casas’ lefthanded power stroke didn’t really seem to translate into games until late in the year, with six of his 13 home runs coming in September, including five over a stretch of three straight games in New Hampshire. But scouts were impressed by his athletic ability at first base even with his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame.

Triston Casas, 1B, Portland (Red Sox)27557781221352496363.284.395.484

10. Austin Martin, SS/OF, New Hampshire (Blue Jays)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 185. Drafted: Vanderbilt, 2020 (1st round).

Drafted fifth overall in 2020 out of Vanderbilt and signed for $7 million, Martin received an ambitious assignment to Double-A to start his pro career, which perhaps resulted in what a mixed bag it ended up being.

Scouts expressed significant concerns about Martin’s ability to remain at shortstop because of a below-average arm and average footwork. They also weren’t sold on his ability to stick in center field. Martin played both positions equally as often.

That trend continued with the Twins after the organization acquired him and Simeon Woods Richardson at the trade deadline in the deal that sent Jose Berrios to the Blue Jays.

Left field may ultimately suit Martin’s skill set best, and his .424 on-base percentage could make him a future table-setter. Evaluators would like to see him develop more power to profile on a corner. He hit just two home runs in 196 at-bats for the Fisher Cats and ended up with five on the season after finishing his year in Double-A Wichita.

Austin Martin, SS/OF, New Hampshire (Blue Jays)1344355102216375393.281.424.383

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