American League Central Prospect Notebook For July
Reese Olson Learns To Be More Efficient After Joining Tigers
When righthander Reese Olson received word that he was being traded to the Tigers last July, he looked forward to a fresh perspective on his development.
The 22-year-old hasn’t slowed down since.
Drafted by the Brewers in the 13th round out of a Georgia high school in 2018, Olson was traded by Milwaukee to Detroit at the 2021 trade deadline for Daniel Norris.
Upon arriving at High-A West Michigan, Olson made just two starts before an expedited promotion to Double-A Erie in August.
He returned to Erie this spring and has focused on the science and technology behind improving his arsenal. He has grown more intrigued by the topic as his career has progressed.
With his new organization, Olson has seen firsthand the value in the new faces brought in by the Tigers to assist in cultivating a more development-focused environment for players.
“I definitely think all the new stuff, with the analytical staff has definitely been a big help for me,” Olson said. “I think the guys who the Tigers brought in, from the front office down to the pitching development side, it's been great.”
Through 15 appearances for Erie this season, Olson had logged a 3.95 ERA in 66 innings with 103 strikeouts and 20 walks. His strikeout rate of 37.5% ranked top 10 in the minors.
One area Olson has been focusing on this season is fastball spin efficiency.
The Tigers directed Olson to work with CleanFuego, a device that provides pitchers with visual feedback.
“It's kind of like the middle part of the baseball,” Olson said. “What you're trying to see with the CleanFuego is if it wobbles you know it's not spinning efficiently.
“(The Tigers) are big on CleanFuego. So, me throwing that this offseason, and then throwing it every day this year. I think that's probably been a big thing for me with cleaning the efficiency up.”
Well-Rounded Will Brennan Climbs To The Precipice Of MLB
Outfielder Will Brennan has checked all the right boxes as the 24-year-old has climbed from Double-A Akron to Triple-A Columbus this season.
“He is a baseball junkie who demonstrates a love for every aspect of preparation and playing the game,” Guardians assistant general manager James Harris said.
“He has shown consistent performance in Double-A and now Triple-A.”
The Guardians drafted Brennan in the eighth round out of Kansas State in 2019. He made a solid pro debut that summer as he climbed to short-season Mahoning Valley.
He established a trend for plate discipline that season that has persisted. Brennan drew 25 walks against 17 strikeouts in his debut.
He got right back on track in 2021 after the canceled 2020 season, compiling a .369 on-base percentage as he climbed to Double-A.
Brennan made another two-level progression this season, earning the bump to Triple-A on May 27. Through 67 games he hit .342/.416/.519 with seven home runs, 10 stolen bases and a near 1-to-1 ratio of 35 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Not unlike Guardians rookie outfielder Steven Kwan, the 6-foot, 200-pound, lefthanded-hitting Brennan is more of a hit-over-power player more likely to find the gaps than hit the ball over the wall.
“He has shown flashes of power, but probably wouldn’t trade it for what he currently brings to the table,” Harris said.
What Brennan brings to the table is a mature hitting approach that allows him to use the whole field to collect hits, no matter the opposing pitcher’s hand.
Brennan also has the speed to steal a base and has shown enough in the outfield that he has played the majority of his games in center field, with occasional starts in left, and a few in right.
“He is probably most suited for the corners but will continue to rotate to play center field each week,” Harris said.
Lenyn Sosa Makes Big Impression On White Sox In Brief Time
In his first at-bat with the White Sox, 22-year-old second baseman Lenyn Sosa saw four pitches and took four big swings.
He fouled off one, missed the other three and was a pretty easy strikeout victim in a June 23 game against the Orioles.
If Sosa was feeling a little extra adrenaline, he deserves a pass.
Before making his MLB debut for Chicago, the middle infielder was playing for Double-A Birmingham.
Sosa appreciated the chance to briefly play in Chicago.
“This is a big opportunity,” said Sosa, who signed out of Venezuela in 2016. “I think all the hard work that I've put in day in and day out since I started playing baseball has now come to fruition.”
Sosa was on quite a roll at Birmingham, where he played 62 games and hit .331/.384/.549 with 14 home runs.
The White Sox were trying to shake off a slow start and make the postseason for the third straight year. Making sure Sosa continues to develop at Triple-A is much more likely than giving him sporadic playing time in the majors.
“Right now, he’s up here temporarily to fill in,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “I don't want to discourage Sosa, but I don’t know how many opportunities he’s going to get.”
The starting job at second base could be open for the White Sox next season, and Sosa is a prime candidate to claim it.
The organization likes the 6-foot, 180-pounder Sosa’s defensive game, but his emerging power is the bigger attraction.
“They’ve been raving about him since the first week of the season,” La Russa said. “He’s playing well defensively at three positions, but it’s his at-bats—he’s a good-looking hitter.”
Twins’ Steven Hajjar Works To Throw More Strikes With Hard-To-Hit Stuff
The Twins drafted Michigan lefthander Steven Hajjar in the second round last summer, signed him for a $1.1 million bonus, then asked the him to do something unusual:
“He pitched a lot for his college team, and his velocity wasn’t consistent,” Twins farm director Alex Hassan said. “He dealt with some quad tightness, and then some forearm tightness, so we just decided to let him get acclimated, work on his body, and give his arm some time.”
Hajjar’s 81.2 innings were second most in the Big Ten Conference in 2021.
Hajjar came to camp this spring rested and ready, and the results showed. The 21-year-old’s fastball velocity climbed to 93 mph regularly and as high as 96 occasionally.
When the Low-A Fort Myers season opened, Hajjar became all but unhittable. Through nine starts, he had allowed 17 hits in 35.1 innings
Two months into his professional career, Hajjar had allowed just 17 hits in 35.1 innings to go with 59 strikeouts and a 2.04 ERA.
“He misses a lot of bats,” Hassan said. “I guess that’s an understatement.”
Yes, but there’s a catch. Though opposing batters had hit just .145, Hajjar had put more batters on base via walks—19—than hits. The Twins are trying to help the 6-foot-5 Hajjar harness his control.
“He’s a big guy and he’s got a delivery that seems to deceive hitters,” Hassan said. “He’s got good life on his fastball that allows him to play up consistently, and his changeup is a strikeout pitch.
“We’re working on some mechanical (details) to help him work the strike zone a little better.”
Hajjar seemed headed for a midseason promotion, but shoulder stiffness in mid June landed him on the injured list.
“This is the first time we’ve seen him consistently on the mound, so we’re trying to establish new baselines” for usage, Hassan said. “He’s shown us a lot already.”
Height, Offspeed Are Separators For Royals Lefty Drew Parrish
Growing up on Florida’s Space Coast, lefthander Drew Parrish has witnessed many rocket launches in his lifetime.
It may be hyperbole to say that the Florida State product’s career is on the same trajectory as those rockets blasting off from Kennedy Space Center, but the 24-year-old Parrish has made clear progress in the past two seasons.
The 2019 eighth-rounder reached Triple-A Omaha on June 8, following a pitcher of the month performance in the Double-A Texas League in May.
Through 14 starts, Parrish recorded a 3.50 ERA with 60 strikeouts and 23 walks in 74.2 innings.
The 5-foot-11 southpaw thrives because of his feel for a plus changeup along with his confidence and pitchability. Parrish attributes his success to attacking the zone and limiting walks.
Parrish said he developed his plus changeup as a high school sophomore and began using it as his go-to pitch in college.
“The pitch characteristics (of his changeup) resemble his fastball, but he can take 10 miles per hour off the pitch. It’s pretty impressive,” said Mitch Stetter, one of the Royals’ minor league pitching coordinators.
Parrish’s 88-92 mph fastball plays up because of how well he lands it all four quadrants of the zone. He rounds out his arsenal with a work-in-progress curveball. He was starting to throw it more often as he builds confidence in the pitch.
Moving up to Triple-A presented another challenge for Parrish.
“(Hitters) know what they need to do to get a pitcher uncomfortable on the mound,” Parrish said, “and they’ll work you until they get the pitch that they know they can handle.”
Hitters are used to seeing tall pitchers, so Parrish uses his sub-6-foot height to his advantage.
“It gives me a little perception on the mound that sometimes can be hard to pick up for hitters who are seeing guys over 6 feet,” Parrish said.
“It’s a different release angle, and the ball comes at you in a different way.”
Trade Central: Reds Trade Tyler Mahle To Twins For A Trio of Prospects
In a deadline day deal the Twins continued to add to their pitching corps as they acquired righthanded starter Tyler Mahle from the Reds.
AROUND THE DIVISION
— Through the end of June, Tigers 24-year-old outfielder Kerry Carpenter held a share of the overall minor league home run lead with 23. The 19th-round pick from Virginia Tech in 2019 hit .304/.359/.646 in 63 games for Double-A Erie to earn a June 25 promotion to Triple-A Toledo.
— Nearly 80 days after fracturing a bone in his right foot at the tail end of spring training, Tigers outfielder Riley Greene took the field for his MLB debut on his June 18. In his first 11 games, Greene went 11-for-39 (.282) with nine walks and seven strikeouts.
— The White Sox promoted 2021 first-round shortstop Colson Montgomery to High-A Winston-Salem on June 24. He hit.324/.424/.477 with four home runs in 45 games for Low-A Kannapolis, reaching base safely in his final 32.
— Fully recovered from a lat strain, White Sox righthander Norge Vera was easing into the season as a starter for Low-A Kannapolis. He allowed three runs in 10 innings over his first four starts.
— Royals righthander Jose Cuas received his first MLB callup in late May after the 28-year-old reliever posted a 1.74 ERA in 20 games for Triple-A Omaha. It’s been a long, circuitous route for the Brooklyn native, who was drafted by the Brewers in the 11th round in 2015 as a third baseman after three years at Maryland. Milwaukee tried Cuas on the mound at Low-A in 2018 before releasing him. He latched on in the independent Atlantic League, and the D-backs signed him for 2019. Released by Arizona during the 2020 lost season, Cuas made ends meet by working as a FedEx driver. He returned to the Atlantic League with Long Island in 2021 before being signed by the Royals midway through the season. Cuas thrives primarily with a sinker/slider combination, using his swing-and-miss breaking ball effectively.