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2021 High-A East Top 10 Prospects

Francisco Alvarez Robtringaligetty
Francisco Alvarez (Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

The High-A East featured an embarrassment of prospect riches this season. Ten Top 100 Prospects ranked among the league’s top 10 prospects and two more just missed the list: Astros catcher Korey Lee and Pirates righthander Quinn Priester. Cade Cavalli and Anthony Volpe stood out the most to league managers, with Cavalli having the arsenal and poise of a frontline starter and Volpe showcasing the tools and instincts of a future above-average middle infielder.

Brooklyn led the way with three top 10 prospects—Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty—a trio that stood out to managers for the players’ impressive tools as well as in-game performance.

Righthander Taj Bradley, the No. 3 prospect in the Low-A East, just missed the innings threshold to qualify for the list, as did Hudson Valley hurlers Ken Waldichuk and Luis Medina, who drew notice from managers after lighting up the league over the first month of the season.

Bowling Green, the team with the best record in the league, had an impressive assortment of talent, with catcher Blake Hunt, shortstop Greg Jones and righthander Jayden Murray headlining the group of players managers praised.

1. Cade Cavalli, RHP, Wilmington (Nationals)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-4. WT: 230. Drafted: Oklahoma, 2020 (1st round).

Cavalli wasn’t in High-A for long, but he certainly made his presence felt over his seven starts at the level, striking out 71 and walking 12 over 40.2 innings. to go with a 1.77 ERA. He was voted the High-A East’s top pitching prospect by league managers.

The 2020 first-rounder from Oklahoma had perhaps the best pro debut of any player in his draft class. He showed off a high-octane fastball that comfortably sat in the upper 90s and touched triple-digits to go with a plus upper-80s slider and a pair of above-average secondaries in his curveball and changeup. Cavalli earned rave reviews for the polish he showed at the level, with one evaluator noting he wouldn’t look out of place in the big leagues right now, and he had no trouble throwing strikes consistently—a concern coming out of college.

“His last outing against us was right before he went up to Double-A . . . That day he was 97-100 (mph) and throwing breaking balls for strikes whenever he wanted,” Jersey Shore manager Chris Adamson said. “That was super impressive to see.”

Cavalli has all the ingredients needed to be a frontline starter and could sit atop the Nationals’ rotation by the start of the 2023 season.

Cade Cavalli, RHP, Wilmington (Nationals)311.7777040.2249811271.171

2. Anthony Volpe, SS, Hudson Valley (Yankees)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-11. WT: 180. Drafted: HS—Morristown, N.J., 2019 (1st round).

Few prospects had a better season than Volpe, who conquered Low-A by mid July and looked just as impressive for Hudson Valley in his first full pro season.

Coming out of the 2019 draft, Volpe was known for making plenty of contact with quick hands and a short swing, but he had well below-average power at the time. He spent the 2020 shutdown adding muscle to his frame, translating to 27 homers and 35 doubles between the Class A levels.

Volpe, who split time between shortstop and second base this season, was lauded for his instincts and intelligence, as well as having an innate sense of the moment in high-pressure situations. The 20-year-old isn’t the most tooled-up prospect, but he makes the most out of his ability and his work ethic has led to consistent improvement.

“The way he puts together at-bats, for me, was something that was next level . . . He’s pretty impressive,” Adamson said.

Anthony Volpe, 2B/SS, Hudson Valley (Yankees)213576117115372758124.286.391.587

3. Francisco Alvarez, C, Brooklyn (Mets)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-10. WT: 233. Signed: Venezuela, 2018.

The Mets’ No. 1 prospect has some of the most impressive raw power in the minors and it was on full display during the Futures Game. In addition to hitting a home run during the game, Alvarez launched shot after shot to center field in batting practice.

Alvarez has had no trouble making consistent hard contact as one of the younger players in High-A East, with 22 home runs in just 84 games at 19 years old, though his power has come with a high rate of swing and miss.

Alvarez showed improvement behind the plate this season, getting more confident in his ability to work with pitchers while earning praise for his receiving ability. He has a plus arm, but will need to continue to work on his balance, setup and game calling.

Francisco Alvarez, C, Brooklyn (Mets)27955691312258408263.247.351.538

4. Michael Harris, OF, Rome (Braves)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. HT: 6-0. WT: 195. Drafted: HS—Stockbridge, Ga., 2019 (3rd round).

The 2019 third-rounder came into the season with high expectations after a standout spring training. Harris turned in a performance that matched his lofty tools by hitting .294/.362/.436 with seven home runs and 27 stolen bases in 31 attempts in his first full pro year.

Harris impressed league managers with his bat-to-ball skills, baserunning ability, defense and arm strength, and he has exhibited impressive plus raw power in batting practice that should eventually lead to more homers in games. Harris was voted the league’s top defensive outfielder by managers, as well as having the best arm, a 60-grade tool.

With five above-average or better tools, Harris has as good of a skill set as any prospect in the league.

“It’s scary to see what this kid can turn into . . . He makes everything look easy,” Rome manager Kanekoa Texeira said.

Mike Harris, OF, Rome (Braves)374551102637643576274.294.362.436

5. Ronny Mauricio, SS, Brooklyn (Mets)
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. HT: 6-3. WT: 166. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017.

Mauricio added strength to his frame, which helped him take a step forward at High-A this season. He set career highs in home runs, RBIs, walks, slugging percentage and OPS while standing out on both sides of the ball for Brooklyn. The toolsy 20-year-old shortstop was voted the league’s most exciting player, as well as the best defensive shortstop and the infielder with the best arm. Mauricio earned positive reviews from league managers for his big-time power from both sides of the plate, hitting ability and defensive acumen, in addition to impressive maturity for his age.

“His maturity from pre-Covid to now, handling the ups and downs of offensive baseball and his hitting and not letting it affect his ability to defend has become, to me, a consistency in his game,” Brooklyn manager Ed Blankmeyer said.

He will need to cut down on his chase rate, but there’s little doubt Mauricio is a future big leaguer with a lofty ceiling.

Ronny Mauricio, SS, Brooklyn (Mets)392559514519632410197.242.290.449

Michael Harris Braves Tomdipace

Minor League Offensive Data Standouts For April

The group of players highlighted below showed an impressive blend of power, contact skills and production.

6. Oswald Peraza, SS, Hudson Valley (Yankees)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-0. WT: 165. Signed: Venezuela, 2016.

Peraza didn’t look rusty at all in his return to play this season despite not being included in the Yankees’ 60-man player pool for the alternate training site in 2020.

Peraza’s tools across the board stood out to league managers. He received praise for his patience at the plate, knowledge of the strike zone and ability to stay on fastballs. He showed impressive range at shortstop, with good actions and a strong arm, and was lauded for his polished approach to the game.

“I thought he defended very well, I thought he showed an above-average arm, I thought his range was very good,” Brooklyn manager Ed Blankmeyer said.

Before this season, Peraza worked with instructors on hitting the ball in the air and it paid off, with a career-high 17 home runs and 26 doubles between High-A and Double-A, adding another element to a skill set that now includes five average or better tools.

Oswald Peraza, SS, Hudson Valley (Yankees)11120341005161224161.306.386.532

7. Brett Baty, 3B, Brooklyn (Mets)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-3. WT: 210. Drafted: HS—Austin, Texas, 2019 (1st round).

No player received as much praise from league managers for the way he carried himself on the field as Baty, who only needed 51 games at High-A before a promotion to Double-A Binghamton in mid July.

The 2019 first-rounder always had huge raw power, but this season he made significant gains with his discipline at the plate, with good strike-zone awareness, as well as showing improved athleticism to become a better runner.

Baty was lauded by managers for taking a step forward defensively at third base, strengthening his ability to throw from multiple angles, increasing his first-step quickness and playing the ball better. He needs to more consistently hit to his pull side, which should lead to more home runs in the future.

Brett Baty, 3B, Brooklyn (Mets)1812756141734245343.309.397.514

8. Nick Gonzales, 2B, Greensboro (Pirates)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. HT: 5-10. WT: 195. Drafted: New Mexico State, 2020 (1st round).

Gonzales missed a month with a broken right pinkie and struggled to get back into form, hitting .265 in July, but he turned in an exceptional August, with 10 homers and 28 RBIs while showing the same approach and ability as a hitter that led the Pirates to draft him seventh overall in 2020.

Gonzales earned positive reviews from league managers for his plate discipline. He cut down on the pitches he chased out of the zone, and used his all-fields approach to rack up 98 hits in just 80 games.

Gonzales showed improvement defensively at second base as well, but his bat will always be his carrying tool. He will make his upper-minors debut next season after spending the entirety of 2021 at High-A.

Nick Gonzales, 2B, Greensboro (Pirates)324539823418544010172.302.385.565

9. Gunnar Henderson, SS/3B, Aberdeen (Orioles)
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. HT: 6-2. WT: 210. Drafted: HS—Selma, Ala., 2019 (2nd round).

Henderson, the No. 1 prospect in Low-A East, had a bumpy transition to High-A after dominating the lower level. He collected only one hit in his first 31 at-bats, but he impressed league managers all the same.

The 20-year-old shortstop has stood out for his plus raw power, defensive ability, reactions and arm strength, with managers highlighting his play at shortstop specifically. One manager pointed out Henderson’s growth in maturity at the plate over a one-month period, something the Orioles organization also noticed. They promoted Henderson to Double-A on Sept. 13 while he was riding an eight-game hitting streak.

Henderson has quick hands and good bat control, and he learned how to stay within his strengths as he got more accustomed to High-A pitching.

Gunnar Henderson, SS, Aberdeen (Orioles)24334561639354087111.230.343.432

10. Liover Peguero, SS, Greensboro (Pirates)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. HT: 6-1. WT: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2017 (D-backs).

One of the most exciting players in the league, Peguero has impressive tools but struggled at times to get to them in games in his first year of full-season ball. That was evidenced by a good amount of swing and miss.

Peguero drew plaudits for his defense at shortstop, with above-average speed and improving reactions to go with an average arm. He also showed added pop as one of the younger players in High-A East, with a career-high 14 home runs in 90 games after hitting just six in his previous 101 games.

Peguero drew notice from league managers for his knowledge of the game, ability to battle through at-bats and his approach at the plate, an area of emphasis for him over the last two years.

Liover Peguero, SS, Greensboro (Pirates)37467101192144533105286.270.332.444

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