Image credit: Padres catcher Ethan Salas (Photo Courtesy of Gail Verderico)
Best tools winners are voted on by league managers.
|Category||California (LoA)||Carolina (LoA)||Florida State (LoA)|
|Best Batting Prospect||Ethan Salas||Samuel Basallo||Termarr Johnson|
|Lake Elsinore (Padres)||Delmarva (Orioles)||Bradenton (Pirates)|
|Best Power Prospect||Ryan Ritter||Xavier Isaac||Termarr Johnson|
|Fresno (Rockies)||Charleston (Rays)||Bradenton (Pirates)|
|Best Strike-Zone Judgment||Cole Young||Ahbram Liendo||Jett Williams|
|Modesto (Mariners)||Salem (Red Sox)||St. Lucie (Mets)|
|Best Baserunner||Nelson Rada||Chandler Simpson||Seth Stephenson|
|Inland Empire (Angels)||Charleston (Rays)||Lakeland (Tigers)|
|Fastest Baserunner||Nelson Rada||Chandler Simpson||Justin Crawford|
|Inland Empire (Angels)||Charleston (Rays)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Pitching Prospect||Payton Martin||Jacob Misiorowski||Karson Milbrandt|
|Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers)||Carolina (Brewers)||Jupiter (Marlins)|
|Best Fastball||Livan Reinoso||Jacob Misiorowski||Orion Kerkering|
|Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers)||Carolina (Brewers)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Breaking Pitch||Ricardo Yan||Jacob Misiorowski||Orion Kerkering|
|Visalia (D-backs)||Carolina (Brewers)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Changeup||Carson Whisenhunt||Jake Bennett||Estibenzon Jimenez|
|San Jose (Giants)||Fredericksburg (Nationals)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Control||Mason Albright||Marcus Johnson||Hansel Rincon|
|Fresno (Rockies)||Charleston (Rays)||Palm Beach (Cardinals)|
|Best Reliever||Zach Agnos||Adrian Rodriguez||Orion Kerkering|
|Fresno (Rockies)||Down East (Rangers)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Defensive C||Kody Huff||Jhon Garcia||Logan Tanner|
|Fresno (Rockies)||Salem (Red Sox)||Daytona (Reds)|
|Best Defensive 1B||Matt Coutney||Branden Boissiere||Peyton Williams|
|Inland Empire (Angels)||Fredericksburg (Nationals)||Dunedin (Blue Jays)|
|Best Defensive 2B||Diego Velazquez||Jadher Areinamo||Jared Serna|
|San Jose (Giants)||Carolina (Brewers)||Tampa (Yankees)|
|Best Defensive 3B||Skyler Messinger||Brady House||Jack Brannigan|
|Modesto (Mariners)||Fredericksburg (Nationals)||Bradenton (Pirates)|
|Best Defensive SS||Jose Izarra||Gregory Barrios||Bryan Rincon|
|Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers)||Carolina (Brewers)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Infield Arm||Jose Fernandez||Cam Cauley||Bryan Rincon|
|Visalia (D-backs)||Down East (Rangers)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best Defensive OF||Nelson Rada||Luis Lara||Justin Crawford|
|Inland Empire (Angels)||Carolina (Brewers)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Best OF Arm||Gabriel Gonzalez||Elijah Green||Cade Fergus|
|Modesto (Mariners)||Fredericksburg (Nationals)||Clearwater (Phillies)|
|Most Exciting Player||Ethan Salas||Chandler Simpson||Jared Serna|
|Lake Elsinore (Padres)||Charleston (Rays)||Tampa (Yankees)|
|Best Manager Prospect||Jeremiah Knackstedt||Jake Lowery||Andrew Graham|
|San Jose (Giants)||Fredericksburg (Nationals)||Lakeland (Tigers)|
Salas Could Be Special
When Ethan Salas arrived in the California League on May 30, he immediately displayed talent well beyond his years.
The Padres assigned Salas to Low-A Lake Elsinore this season when he was just 16 years old, making him the first player that age to appear in the full-season minor leagues since Julio Urias in 2013.
Salas, who signed in January and bypassed Rookie ball entirely, reached base in seven of his first eight plate appearances, turned 17 two days after his arrival and never slowed down.
Salas hit .267/.350/.487 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs in 48 games for Lake Elsinore before earning a promotion to High-A Fort Wayne—and eventually Double-A San Antonio in late August.
Beyond the numbers, the Venezuelan catcher showed an uncanny knowledge of the strike zone and remarkable poise in the batter’s box that belied his youth.
Salas laid off tantalizingly close pitches, worked counts like a season veteran and made consistent contact with a direct, fluid, lefthanded swing.
After hitting into some bad luck early, Salas hit .312/.359/.633 with eight home runs in his final 26 games with the Storm before being promoted.
“At 17 you’re usually writing a high school follow report on a guy,” one rival evaluator said. “I haven’t seen a newly-turned 17-year-old in full-season who really looks like he belongs.
“He’s taking 97 (mph) up in the zone and just crushed it for a home run. He’s got a chance to be pretty damn good.”
Salas understandably still needs to add strength, especially to withstand the rigors of catching. But for a player his age to excel as he did in the California League, he showed he’s already on the path to becoming a special player.
Massive Power Helps Isaac Stand Out
The Rays surprised the industry in 2022 by taking hulking high school first baseman Xavier Isaac in the first round.
So far, the 19-year-old has rewarded their hunch.
The winner of the Best Power category in the Carolina League, Isaac is a big, physical lefthanded hitter with the thump to match. At the time of his promotion to High-A, Isaac ranked third in the CL in home runs (13), second in slugging (.462) and second in OPS (.462).
More than simply power, Isaac has impressed scouts with an advanced approach that led to a walk rate of nearly 15% in the Carolina League.
Isaac’s raw power showed up in his exit velocity numbers, with a 90th percentile mark that hovered around 108 mph and a maximum of better than 114 mph.
As a first base-only prospect, Isaac is going to have to continue to mash like he did in the Carolina League to keep climbing the ladder. The biggest hole scouts see right now is in his platoon splits. He departed Low-A hitting just .192/.337/.288 against southpaws and hadn’t connected for a home run against a lefty all season.
Isaac’s strikeout rate against lefties in the CL was high but not outlandish at 26.8% and he still worked plenty of walks (nearly an 18% rate), but there’s still plenty of work to be done to make Isaac a threat against both righties and lefties.
Nonetheless, Isaac’s massive power should make him an asset as he rises through the minor leagues.
Basallo’s Bat Dominates Older Competition
After years of absence in the international market, the Orioles under Mike Elias have begun to reestablish themselves in the space in recent years.
Their first hit looks to be 19-year-old catcher Samuel Basallo. Signed for $1.3 million out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021, Basallo was assigned to Low-A Delmarva out of spring training after a solid U.S. debut in the Florida Complex League last year.
In 83 games with the Shorebirds Basallo hit .299/.384/.503 with 12 home runs. At the time of Basallo’s promotion to High-A Aberdeen, he ranked third in the Carolina League in batting average, fifth in on-base percentage, first in slugging and fourth in home runs.
The biggest difference year over year in Basallo’s game is his ability to impact the ball. While the lefthanded hitter hinted at his plus-plus raw power at times in complex ball, he didn’t consistently channel his strength into hard contact.
Compared with last year, Basallo added 5 mph to his average exit velocity and 3 mph to his 90th percentile exit velocity. This shows a real increase in not only high end contact quality but also consistency of quality contact.
Basallo still has some swing-and-miss, particularly in-zone, and will get overly aggressive and expand the zone. Despite these warts, Basallo dominated older competition in his first experience at the full-season level with plus power that may grow into double-plus and feel to hit.
Basallo has a strong combination of elite power and skills. His future behind the plate might be a question, but his bat carries enough weight to fit around the diamond.
Player Spotlight: Jacob Misiorowski
Jacob Misiorowski won Best Tools categories in three leagues this season.
Not bad for a Brewers 2022 second-round pick who walked seven of the 14 batters he faced in his pro debut last summer.
The 6-foot-7 Misiorowski still struggles with control, but his stuff is undeniable. He might have the best two-pitch combo in the minor leagues.
His high-90s fastball gets on hitters quickly from an unorthodox low arm slot and generates a high rate of swings and misses. The pitch is a 70 or 80 on the 20-80 scale for scouts.
Because Misiorowski can touch 101 mph, batters often look foolish when they’re gearing up for heat and get his high-80s slider.
He also throws a low-80s curveball that he can often locate to both sides of the plate and make up for a subpar changeup.
Locating pitches in the strike zone is often a 50/50 proposition for Misiorowski, and more advanced hitters will go out of the zone less often than young ones.
Combined with Misiorowski’s long arm action, that leads many scouts to project the 21-year-old to the bullpen, where he could quickly become a premier closer.
Prospect Showdown: Cole Young vs. Jett Williams
The 2022 draft was rich in high school shortstop talent. Jackson Holliday and Termarr Johnson were the first and fourth players selected. The Mets followed with Jett Williams at No. 14 and the Mariners with Cole Young at No. 21.
Both Williams and Young have the potential to become plus hitters, thanks in large part to discerning batting eyes. Each won Best Strike-Zone Judgment in his league.
While Williams and Young were in Low-A, they had nearly identical chase rates of roughly 17.5%. Young swung much more frequently (40% to 32%) and whiffed more often on pitches in the zone (18% to 14%). Williams, whose league used an ABS strike zone, worked deeper counts and had higher walk and strikeout rates.
60 HIT 60
45 POWER 40
55 RUN 60
50 FIELD 50
55 ARM 50
What They’re Saying: Termarr Johnson, 2B, Pirates
“I think he’s gonna stay at second base. His lower half is getting really thick, but he has very good bat speed. Patient with a good eye. Ball jumps off his bat. He’s still really young, so that has to come into play.
“He has severe bat speed. Everyday player. You can tell he loves to play the game. Excellent enthusiasm. Defense is still a question. Thick frame but quick twitch.”
—Anonymous pro scout