American League Central: August Prospect Notebook
Matthew Thompson Makes Move To Double-A For White Sox
The White Sox are finally getting an extended look at righthander Matthew Thompson. They like what they're seeing.
The 2019 second-rounder out of Cypress Ranch High in Texas, Thompson signed for $2.1 million and envisioned a rapid rise through the system.
Three years later, it's starting to happen.
Thompson pitched just two innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League after signing, then lost the 2020 minor league season to the pandemic.
He saw time at Chicago’s alternate training site in 2020, but the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Thompson was understandably out of sync last year when he ran up a 5.90 ERA in 10 starts for Low-A Kannapolis.
“Not having a (2020) season was tough for him, because it takes a little bit of time just to build up the right workload, and an appropriate workload based on what they’ve done in high school,” White Sox assistant general manager/director of player development Chris Getz said.
“It took some extra patience, but it's beginning to pay off, and he's showing what he's capable of doing.”
Thompson opened this season at High-A Winston-Salem. In 18 starts he recorded a 4.70 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 29 walks in 84.1 innings before an Aug. 3 promotion to Double-A Birmingham.
In early June, Thompson pitched 11.2 scoreless innings and struck out 10 in back-to-back starts for Winston-Salem, giving him a boost of confidence. He turned 22 on Aug. 11.
“Matt is figuring out how to navigate deeper into games,” Getz said. “His changeup has gotten a lot better and he's commanding his fastball. He’s learning how to get ahead and then how to put guys away . . .
“There have been some real positive signs. He's a very physical kid, an athletic kid. He has some power behind everything he does.”
Moving Thompson up a level for the final six weeks of the season is beneficial.
“It's a motivating factor for him,” Getz said. “It's another opportunity to show off his skills.”
Twins’ Noah Miller Meets Every Challenge At Low-A
Launching a minor league career isn’t easy under any circumstances, but Noah Miller has taken degree of difficulty to another level.
Miller is just 19, the youngest player on his Low-A Fort Myers team and one of the youngest in the Florida State League. As such, he had taken fewer than two dozen at-bats against younger pitchers all season.
He’s also a switch-hitter and a shortstop.
“I know, it’s a lot. A full-season league, it’s a challenge for anyone,” said Jeremy Zoll, the Twins’ assistant general manager who oversees player development.
“He’s doing a great job for 19 years old. He already has terrific plate discipline, and as he continues to play and get bigger, we expect to see some power come with it.”
Nobody is worried about the 2021 supplemental first-round pick, in other words, even though his slugging percentage has hovered around .300 all year.
With a walk rate above 15%, Miller had kept his on-base percentage above .350, a better indicator of his ability and his future, the Twins feel.
“It’s hard to slug in the Florida State League, especially when you’re 19,” Zoll said. “He’s making contact, and we feel good that some of it will result in doubles and homers as he progresses.
“High school (draftees), they’re not who they’re going to be. We try not to forget that.”
Actually, the Twins hope this is who the former Wisconsin prep will be in the field.
“He’s played just a stellar shortstop throughout the year,” Zoll said. “That was something our scouts talked about in the draft room—every time he throws, you see it (caught) in the middle of the chest.”
Miller’s brother is Guardians utility infielder Owen Miller, and that pedigree shows, Zoll said, in his baseball savvy, work ethic and competitiveness.
“He’s just super advanced,” Twins scouting director Sean Johnson said. “It doesn’t take you long to figure out he’s a rock star kid.”
Guardians Believe Chase DeLauter Can Be A Difference-Maker
The Guardians haven’t drafted an impact outfielder in the first round since Manny Ramirez in 1991.
They hope to end that drought with Chase DeLauter, whom Cleveland selected 16th overall out of James Madison this year.
Though DeLauter’s junior season ended prematurely when he broke his foot in early April, the Guardians were undeterred.
They never budged from their belief that the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefthanded hitter could eventually be a difference-maker in the big league outfield.
“He’s very athletic. He’s physical. He’s performed extremely well, and he’s an intense competitor,” Guardians scouting director Scott Barnsby said.
In 66 career games over three years at JMU, DeLauter hit .402/.520/.715 against Colonial Athletic Association competition.
As a rising junior, DeLauter ranked as one of the top prospects in the Cape Cod League, where he put up a .986 OPS with nine home runs in 34 games while swinging a wood bat.
“We’re really excited about this guy’s ability. He impacts the game on both sides of the ball,” Barnsby said. “He’s extremely athletic . . . and he can cover a lot of ground in the outfield.”
DeLauter was hitting .437 with eight home runs and 10 stolen bases when his 2022 season ended early. The 20-year-old is not built like a prototype center fielder, but the Guardians feel he has the speed and athleticism to play the position.
It’s at the plate where DeLauter excites the most.
“What stands out is his ability to leverage the ball,” Barnsby said. “He’s athletic, he’s mobile and he uses his lower half really well. The other thing that stands out is his pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness.
“He can impact the ball to all fields.”
DeLauter told the Guardians he’s close to 100% following his broken foot.
“He’s just scratching the surface,” Barnsby said.
Royals’ Brennon McNair Makes Impact On And Off The Field
The Royals rave about the intelligence, makeup and leadership skills of 19-year-old third baseman Brennon McNair.
Drafted in the 11th round last year and signed for a well above-slot $347,500, McNair’s predraft reports noted that he was student body president and valedictorian at Magee (Miss.) High.
His natural leadership skills were on display in the Arizona Complex League, where he was viewed as a role model on the field and in the clubhouse.
“He’s like a quiet leader,” ACL Royals manager Omar Ramirez said. “He probably won’t talk much, but the way he plays, the way he goes about his business, his work ethic . . . that’s how he brings leadership to the team.”
McNair also brings tools to the field. A quick-twitch athlete and a plus runner, he is a natural shortstop adjusting to life on the hot corner, where balls get on him faster.
The switch-hitter has gap power from both sides of the plate and should get more balls over the fence as he matures and continues to adjust to better velocity than he saw in high school.
Through 30 games McNair was hitting .236/.339/.464 with four home runs and five stolen bases.
McNair wants to be known as more than just a baseball player.
He has already earned an associate degree in accounting from a local community college, thanks in part to credits he earned by taking college courses in high school.
McNair will continue working towards a bachelor's degree this fall, majoring in business at Southern Mississippi.
He gives credit to his mother for his dedication to continuing his education.
“She loves that I’m out here playing ball and she loves that I’m chasing my dream,” McNair said, “but she’s also like, ‘This is not something that you can learn just that side.’
“I want to give back to where I’m from. Give back to those in my community, help them, and give them the extra strength they need . . . I just want to impact people.”
Tigers Hope Top Picks Help Solve Player Development Woes
In the draft this year, the Tigers selected a pair of potentially fast-moving college middle infielders: Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and Oklahoma shortstop Peyton Graham.
If either becomes a solid regular, that would be an important development for the Tigers.
Multiple factors led to general manager Al Avila’s dismissal in early August, but the Tigers’ woeful lineup was a key contributor. And Detroit’s inability to draft and develop position players played a significant role in the struggling offense.
In his first 45 games as the Tigers’ center fielder, 21-year-old rookie Riley Greene had produced at a near league-average rate.
That immediately made Greene the most productive position player the Tigers have drafted in the past decade. It also made him the only position player Detroit has drafted since 2013 to produce a positive value for wins above replacement.
In drafting a pair of middle infielders this year, the Tigers are hoping to end another drought as well.
When Kody Clemens started a game at second base this year for the Tigers, he became the first shortstop or second baseman drafted by Detroit to start a game for the MLB club since 2007 second-rounder Danny Worth, a fringe utility infielder from 2010 to 2016.
The last Tigers draftee to start regularly at a middle infield spot was 1992 third-rounder Chris Gomez. Before that it was Travis Fryman, who was Detroit’s everyday shortstop in 1992 before moving to third base.
Before that, the last drafted-and-developed Tigers middle infielders were Lou Whitaker and Hall of Famer Alan Trammell.
Jung and Graham could change that.
Drafted 12th overall, Jung is one of the best pure hitters in the 2022 class. He faces defensive questions, but as a Red Raider he hit .328/.468/.647 with more walks (126) than strikeouts (102) in his career.
Graham, a second-round pick, has more defensive value than Jung and has plenty of offensive upside as well.
If either Jung or Graham can live up to lofty expectations, it will be a much-needed boost for an organization that desperately needs to develop a homegrown hitting core.
Tigers' Jace Jung Makes Early Impression With Teammates
Detroit's first-rounder worked to ingratiate himself throughout West Michigan's clubhouse.
AROUND THE DIVISION
— The White Sox claimed 24-year-old righthander Tobias Myers on waivers from the Giants and assigned him to Triple-A Charlotte. Myers had run up a 6.14 ERA through 63 innings for the Triple-A affiliates of the Guardians and Giants this season.
— The White Sox signed first-rounder Noah Schultz for $2.8 million. The 6-foot-9 lefthander from nearby Oswego East High drew early comparisons with Chris Sale.
— Royals outfielder Roger Leyton, a 19-year-old from Nicaragua, has emerged with a strong season in the Arizona Complex League. “It helps that he was here last year,” ACL Royals manager Omar Ramirez said, “so now he knows what to expect.” Ramirez said that Leyton adjusted his stance at the plate to allow him to hold his bat a little lower, and that has helped his development at the plate.
Leyton hopes to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Steven, a middle infielder in the Reds system. The elder Leyton was part of the Nicaraguan national team for World Baseball Classic qualifying events in 2021, something that Roger hopes is in his near future.
— Several Royals top prospects earned an earlier than expected call to the major league team in July when 10 players from the 26-man roster could not travel to Toronto due to entry restrictions for non-vaccinated individuals. Among the emergency replacements were outfielder Nate Eaton, who homered in his first MLB game, Nick Pratto, Michael Massey, Freddy Fermin and Maikel Garcia.