American League East: August Prospect Notebook

Skepticism Motivates Rays’ First-Round First Baseman Xavier Isaac 

First baseman Xavier Isaac felt he had the ability, work ethic and  confidence to make it to the major leagues.

After seeing the skepticism that followed the Rays making him the 29th overall pick this year, he now has even more fuel and drive.

“Oh, it motivated me a lot,” Isaac said. “The Rays had their trust in me—like they said, they don’t follow the board—so they trusted me. They got me, and I’m going to grind and I’m going to show everybody why I’m a first-rounder.”

Isaac said the doubts are unfair given that he had established himself as a draft prospect by his sophomore year at East Forsyth High near Winston-Salem, N.C. 

His momentum got derailed by a fractured left foot that kept him off the 2021 summer showcase circuit.

“I got hurt, and everybody was like, ‘Oh, he can’t do this. He can’t do that.’ ”

If the 6-foot-5, 240-pound lefthanded hitter made anything clear on his first day as a pro is that he is intent on proving his doubters wrong.

“I have the best work ethic ever,” Isaac said. “I’m going to come for your spot, and I’ll tell you straight up.”

Though his prodigious home runs are eye-catching, Isaac also has the ability to be a complete hitter and a solid defender at first base, which Rays scouting director Rob Metzler said were also key factors in their interest and commitment.

“We like his hands. We like his feet. We think he’s going to be a good first baseman,’’ Metzler said. “And we really like Xavier’s bat. It’s not just about power. 

“He can hit (and) can hit to all fields. We think he’s a hitter first with tremendous power. And we’re excited to see it in action.’’

And if Isaac has some extra motivation to prove the Rays right and the skeptics wrong, that’s all right too.

“Xavier is very driven. He’s very focused,’’ Metzler said. “. . . And I think that he’s incredibly focused on showing that he’s one of the best players in this draft class. And we’re excited to have him do it in our uniform.’’

Marc Topkin

Yankees’ Yoendrys Gomez Could Be ‘Top-Tier’ Starter

It doesn’t take all that much imagination to see 22-year-old righthander Yoendrys Gomez at the front of a big league rotation in the not-so-distant future.

“It’s just hard when you haven’t gotten to see him pitch much,” Yankees director of pitching Sam Briend said.

That was beginning to change.

Gomez returned in early June from an elbow injury that sidelined him for nearly a year. He looked sharp in his brief time back on the mound.

Through seven starts for High-A Hudson Valley, he had recorded a 2.08 ERA with 17 strikeouts and six walks in 17.1 innings. He had not thrown more than 55 pitches in a single outing as the Yankees manage his workload.

“You look at a guy like that, plus when he can flash a 95 (mph) fastball, that’s a top-of-the-rotation guy if everything goes his way,” Briend said.

The Yankees believed enough in Gomez, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2016, to add him to the 40-man roster and shield him from the Rule 5 draft in 2020. 

He started strong in 2021 at Low-A Tampa and then got hurt.

The Yankees dealt seven prospects at the trade deadline to bolster their MLB roster. They are glad that Gomez wasn’t one of them.

They were happy to keep his mid-90s heater, slider and work-in-progress changeup—all of which come from a slim 6-foot-3 frame.

The Yankees have seen him touch 98 mph and, when he’s been healthy, his fastball sits 94-95. It’s not crazy to think that he could be a big league option at some point next year.

“The rust and tightening up his secondary pitches will be the primary goal,” Briend said.

The Yankees believe Gomez has the makeup to make those fixes in short order, especially as he gets more innings.

“I think he’s a mid-rotation starter, possibly better,” Briend said. “I think his ceiling could be a top tier starter.”

Brendan Kuty

Blue Jays Take It Slow With Potential Fast Riser Brandon Barriera

Even though the Blue Jays plan on taking it slow with first-round lefthander Brandon Barriera, pro ball life is coming at the 18-year-old fast after he signed for a slightly above-slot $3,597,500. 

The 23rd overall pick was part of a two-week camp for Toronto’s 2022 draft class, a restart of baseball activities Barriera relished after voluntarily ending his season at American Heritage High before the Florida state playoffs. 

The Blue Jays were excited that Barriera fell to them after being projected to go higher. They had done plenty of work on him and attended all of his starts this spring, so they didn’t hesitate once he got to them. 

Scouting director Shane Farrell describes him as “certainly advanced,” adding that his “pitches in a vacuum are good.” 

“A fastball that’s up to 98, and pitching in the mid 90s,” Farrell said. “His slider’s a really good pitch . . . (and) he did show feel to spin and land the curveball. The changeup is a development pitch for him.”

“But I think looking at the overall arsenal, it’s strong and advanced for an 18-year-old.” 

For the time being, Barriera will engage in a slow-and-steady pitching progression. The Blue Jays don’t expect him to pitch in a game this summer.

Barriera likely will progress to throwing bullpens by late summer or early fall while incorporating other changes into his overall routine. It’s a program not unlike the one that catapulted lefthander Ricky Tiedemann from 2021 third-round pick to 2022 breakout prospect. 

“It won’t be just about throwing volume,” Farrell said of the approach with Barriera. 

“But it’ll be about incorporating everything else developmentally that goes into the player plan. Strength and conditioning, nutrition—things like that. That will ultimately determine when he’s game ready.” 

Barriera made an instant impression on the MLB Network telecast when after he was picked vowed to make the 22 teams that passed on him regret it. He said he is glad the Blue Jays picked him.

“When you look at (the Blue Jays), they play their young guys,” Barriera said. “They’re not scared to bring up their young guys. That’s something that I would love to be a part of.”

Shi Davidi

Eddinson Paulino Shows Bat Skill, Flexibility At Low-A For Red Sox 

Marcelo Mayer wasn’t the only notable middle infielder on the Low-A Salem roster this season.

Eddinson Paulino, who turned 20 in July, has spent plenty of time this year at both shortstop and second base, while also moving to third base and center field. 

As a player who grew up moving all over the field in the Dominican Republic, he has looked natural while doing so.

“He can play all four of those positions with ease,” Salem manager Luke Montz said. “His career is going to take off because he’s able to play all four of them.”

Yet Paulino is more than just a glove. He’s shown a consistent ability at a young age to make firm contact while driving the ball to the gaps. The lefthanded hitter made an impression in the Florida Complex League in 2021, hitting .336/.436/.549 in 36 games.

“At the end of the year, I was surprised when I saw my numbers,” Paulino said through an interpreter. “(I was) like, ‘Oh, man—maybe I do have a chance to play in the big leagues one day.’ ”

The 2022 season has offered further evidence of that notion. Through 90 games, he hit .247/.337/.438 with eight home runs, 21 stolen bases and 46 walks and 85 strikeouts. 

Paulino shows a full mix of tools that project as average to above-average, albeit projecting to have more doubles power than home run juice.

“This guy can do a little bit of everything—swing it, he can run, and he can play good defense,” Montz said.

That diverse skill set and positional flexibility helps to explain why Paulino has emerged as a trade ask for other teams. 

It’s also why the Red Sox likewise see him as one of their better prospects, with an easy future fit on an MLB roster.

Alex Speier

Orioles’ Jared Beck Uses Height To His Advantage

Orioles area scout Brandon Verley sees definite room for growth with 22-year-old lefthander Jared Beck, drafted in the 13th round this year out of Saint Leo University in Florida.

Beck experienced a growth spurt in eighth and ninth grades—about 11 inches in his estimation—and is now listed at 7 feet, 225 pounds.

Sean Hjelle and Jon Rauch are the tallest players in MLB history at 6-foot-11.

The Orioles are more interested in Beck’s other numbers. He registered a 3.95 ERA in 13 starts this year, with 105 strikeouts in 68.1 innings in his second season after transferring from Illinois State.

“I definitely see him more of a bullpen guy in a shorter stint,” Verley said. “His weapons and his tools, hopefully, continue to tick up and improve. He’s a strike-thrower, so he has that going for him . . .

“Our player development (staff) is going to be happy to work with him. He’s a bright kid. He wants to be better. He wants to be a guy, so he’s going to do everything in his power, I truly believe, to give himself success.”

Beck ran up a 7.29 ERA in 2021 but looked sharper that summer in the Coastal Plain League, where he allowed three earned runs and struck out 38 in 25.2 innings.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Beck said. “I figured it was just the in-game experience for me that was the biggest part. I didn’t really get much opportunity earlier in my college career.”

There was a slight increase in Beck’s fastball velocity.

“The days I saw him, he was 87-91 (mph),” Verley said, “but in a one-inning fall look on scout day, he was more 90-92. And I’ve had guys tell me that early in the spring last year, he had some flashes when he was touching 94.”

Mechanics are going to be a challenge for Beck because of his long limbs, but he’s an opposing figure on the mound.

“From that angle and that release point, (the ball) gets on you at a different clip than a 6-foot righthander. He’s definitely a unique guy.”

Roch Kubatko


— Rays first baseman Kyle Manzardo, drafted in the second round in 2021 out of Washington State, was promoted to Double-A Montgomery after hitting .329 with 17 home runs and a 1.072 OPS in 63 games for High-A Bowling Green.

— Rays shortstop Tristan Gray had an impressive power surge at Triple-A Durham, hitting an International League-leading 25 home runs in just 85 games. His previous high was 17 in 122 games for Double-A Montgomery in 2019.

— Red Sox corner infielder Nick Northcut set a Greenville Drive franchise record with 26 homers—in just 79 games—before a promotion to Double-A Portland.

— Rehabbing Red Sox righthander Michael Wacha combined with relievers A.J. Politi and Chase Shugart to throw the first no-hitter in Triple-A Worcester Red Sox franchise history on Aug. 4.

— The Orioles signed shortstop Jackson Holliday, the first overall pick in the draft, to a $8.19 million bonus that’s a record for a high school player. Holliday, the BA High School Player of the Year and the son of seven-time all-star Matt Holliday, reported to the Florida Complex League.

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