Image credit: Brayan Rocchio (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
While the full-season leagues near their halfway point, the domestic half-season leagues are ready to pull back the veil on their seasons. Friday marks Opening Night for the short-season Northwest and New York-Penn Leagues, as well as the Rookie-level Pioneer League.
To mark the occasion, we’ll take a look around the three leagues and highlight a few of the best players who were on Opening Day rosters. First up, the New York-Penn League.
Mahoning Valley (Indians)
Brayan Rocchio, SS
The prospect dubbed “The Professor” for his keen baseball instincts has plenty of skills, too. He finished the year as the No. 1 prospect in the AZL. Observers who saw him in extended spring training saw a skilled defender with the offensive tools and twitchiness to be a threat on both sides of the ball.
George Valera, OF
If not for a broken hamate in 2018 and a hamstring injury this spring, Valera’s name might be much more well known. The 18-year-old brings prodigious bat-to-ball skills and at least average raw power. He’s an early favorite to be the top prospect in the NYPL at season’s end.
Ethan Hankins, RHP
Hankins was Cleveland’s top draft pick in 2018 and entered the year as the system’s No. 10 prospect. He can run his fastball into the upper 90s and complements the pitch with three offspeeds that have the potential to be average or better.
Carlos Vargas, RHP
The Scrappers’ Opening Night starter can bring his fastball up to triple-digits and regularly sits in the upper-90s. He pairs it with a breaking pitch that can flash as a 65-grade offering on the 20-to-80 scouting scale but will also show well below-average as well.
Staten Island (Yankees)
Everson Pereira, OF
The Yankees showed enough confidence in Pereira in 2018 to jump him to the Rookie-level Appalachian League as a 17-year-old. His numbers weren’t the best, but scouts still saw the ingredients for a player who could hit for average and power as he matures.
Oswald Peraza, SS
Another standout from the 2018 Pulaski club, Peraza showed a smooth, sound swing and impressed scouts again with his work in extended spring training. He’s got an excellent chance to stick up the middle and shoot line drives from gap to gap.
Lowell (Red Sox)
Antoni Flores, SS
Flores entered the year as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s system and was lauded by evaluators for mix of all-around tools that each have a chance to be average or better. He boasts a potential plus arm and could be an above-average hitter.
Ryan Zeferjahn, RHP
Zeferjahn checked in at No. 57 on the 2019 Baseball America 500 and was part of the 2018 College National Team. At Kansas, his fastball sat in the mid-90s and touched as high as 97 mph. He paired the pitch with a changeup and slider that each have plus potential.
Gilberto Jimenez, OF
The Red Sox unearthed a gem in the 2017-18 international signing period when they signed Jimenez for just $10,000. Since then, he has opened evaluators’ eyes with a mix of speed and on-base skills. He swiped 20 bags (albeit in 35 tries) and notched eight triples (which tied him for second on the circuit) in the Dominican Summer League.
Nick Northcut, 3B
Boston’s 11th-rounder from 2018 out of high school in Ohio, Northcut made a brief appearance in the NYPL in 2018 and returns to the level this summer. He has the potential for plus power but will have to mitigate his swing-and-miss concerns that showed up with 55 strikeouts in 166 at-bats last fall.
Jayson Schroeder, RHP
Schroeder was the most coveted prep arm in the Northwest in 2018, and the Astros thought enough of him to spend their second-round pick and $1.2 million to add him to their system. He brought his fastball into the upper 90s in the GCL last summer and has two promising offspeed pitches in his curveball and changeup.
Joe Perez, 3B
Perez hasn’t gotten much chance to show his skills since being drafted because a series of injuries that has limited him to 11 at-bats over three years. He was a two-way talent in high school but he Astros liked him better as a hitter because of his potential to hit as well as his skills at the hot corner. Still just 19 years old, he should finally have a chance to show his skills.
Manny Ramirez, RHP
The 19-year-old Dominican impressed scouts last summer with a fastball that sat in the mid-90s, which was good enough strike out 12.2 hitters per nine innings in the GCL. He made a brief appearance in the NYPL and returns to the level looking to shore up his offspeed pitches.
West Virginia (Pirates)
Braxton Ashcraft, RHP
Gifted with a classic, projectable pitcher’s body at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, Ashcraft was Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in 2018. He earned the Opening Night nod for the Black Bears, and features a three-pitch mix fronted by a low-90s fastball and backed by a slider and changeup.
Logan O’Hoppe, C
The Phillies popped O’Hoppe in the 23rd round in 2018 out of a high school in New York. The team liked him for his soft hands, flexibility and receiving skills, as well as a potentially plus throwing arm. He hit well in the GCL, too, putting forth a .367/.411/.532 line with 10 doubles and a pair of home runs.
Jean Carmona, SS
Still just 19 years old, the Brewers signed Carmona out of the Dominican Republic for $725,000 in 2016. They dealt him to Baltimore as part of the package used to get Jonathan Schoop in the middle of 2018. He’s a projectable player who has a chance to stay at shortstop and have value as a switch-hitter who hits for both average and power.
Dalvy Rosario, OF
The 18-year-old Rosario signed with the Marlins in 2016 and made his pro debut in 2018 in the Dominican Summer League, where he showed hints of both power and speed. He socked 13 doubles and four home runs and swiped 26 bases as well. Evaluators who saw Rosario in extended spring were excited about his potential and what he might look like if he turned his tools into skills.