National League East: August Prospect Notebook

Braves Think Second-Rounder Blake Burkhalter Could Move Quickly

The Braves aren’t afraid to push prospects they deem ready. 

Star rookies Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II are evidence of that after riding the fast track to Atlanta. 

In the 2022 draft class, 21-year-old righthander Blake Burkhalter has a chance to be the first player to reach MLB. The Braves drafted the Auburn closer in the second round, with the compensation pick gained from losing free agent Freddie Freeman.

The Braves will attempt to develop Burkhalter as a starter, though he could return to the bullpen by the time he reaches the majors. 

Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown invoked Strider’s name multiple times when discussing Burkhalter.

“There’s some excitement there,” Brown said. “If worse comes to worst, we know we got a big-time end-of-game bullpen guy. But we have some plans to try to see if this guy could start. 

“Maybe we can kind of flip this into a Strider-type pick where you take this college guy who doesn’t have a ton of innings but has really good stuff. He’s been up to 98 (mph) with a really hard cutter.”

It’s easy to see shades of Strider in Burkhalter. His fastball hovers in the mid 90s, and he mixes in a changeup and cutter. He pitched 71.2 innings in college—Strider pitched 63—and he finished his college career strong.

Burkhalter posted a 3.69 ERA with 16 saves in 30 games this spring. He struck out 71 against seven walks. He blossomed under the tutelage of former Braves starter Tim Hudson, an Auburn alum and current coach.

Command remains a question mark for Burkhalter, though he improved in that area in his final season. 

Starter or reliever, Burkhalter will be fast-tracked and has the pedigree of a player who could reach MLB quickly.

“Sometimes you have to get strategic and it could turn into something big,” Brown said.

—Gabe Burns

Mets Embellish Catching Depth With First-Rounder Kevin Parada

The Mets might have appeared set at catcher for years to come with top prospect Francisco Alvarez on the horizon, but that didn’t stop the organization from drafting Georgia Tech backstop Kevin Parada with the 11th overall pick.

The Mets signed the power-hitting catcher for $5.019 million, about $239,000 over slot.

Mets vice president of amateur and international scouting Tommy Tanous said the organization didn’t hesitate in selecting what was deemed as the best available player on the board. 

He compared it to 2016, when the Mets already had first baseman Dominic Smith thriving in the system and selected Pete Alonso in the second round.

“You never know how these things turn out,” Tanous said. “You get the best players and infuse your system with the best talent, and it figures its way out.”

Parada is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound righthanded hitter who set a Georgia Tech single-season record with 26 home runs this year. He hit .361/.453/.709 in 30 walks and 32 strikeouts in 60 games.

Parada comes from a lineage of first-round Yellow Jackets backstops to reach MLB that includes Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters and Joey Bart.

“I had a marketing class with Mark Teixeira,” Parada said, referring to the former all-star first baseman who is completing his degree at Georgia Tech. “I got to meet some guys who have been in the big leagues and been through it and they have always been open if I have any questions or need any advice.”

The Mets have struggled to develop a homegrown everyday catcher since Todd Hundley was behind the plate in the 1990s.

“Power-hitting catchers are very hard to find,” Tanous said. “Power-hitting catchers with a great history of success in college, like Kevin, are even harder to find. We were very surprised he was there.”

—Mike Puma

Marlins Draft Floridian Carmine Lane—But There’s A Catch

The first team to ask University of South Florida third baseman Carmine Lane if he would be willing to catch was the Marlins, and that was way back in November.

Given that, it’s not as big a surprise that the Marlins drafted Lane in the 19th round this year—as a catcher.

Lane’s catching experience is limited to a few games as a 10-year-old, but the experiment makes sense for the 21-year-old. He is as tough as they come at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds.

“He’s nails,” USF coach Billy Mohl said. “I’ve seen him throw his body in front of the ball at third base the past three years, and he has a good arm and good hands. 

“He’s quiet, so he will have to improve his communication skills.”

The Marlins are eager to get Lane’s bat into their system. He played all 118 of USF’s games the past two years, leading the American Athletic Conference with 77 hits and 54 RBIs in 2022.

Lane also led USF this year with a .332 batting average and 13 doubles, producing a .913 OPS. He slugged 21 homers the past two years.

Still, it wasn’t until about five minutes after he was drafted that he realized he was now officially a catcher.

“Leading up to the draft, I caught some bullpens for teams, and I did well,” Lane said.

“I’ve always wanted to catch. I like the action. There were a couple of times at USF where I went two straight series without a ball hit to me at third.”

Besides Lane’s physical toughness, he is also mentally strong.

He’s been able to focus on baseball despite the fact that his father Tom Lane has oral cancer and has essentially lost the skin from his bottom lip down to his chin.

In addition, Carmine’s girlfriend is USF softball player Alexis Buchman, who has battled brain cancer and had a tumor removed in September.

Lane said Buchman recently completed her final chemotherapy treatment and is currently cancer-free.

“Dad is feeling great, too,” Lane said. “He was speechless when I got drafted.”

—Walter Villa

Power-Armed McKinley Moore Grows Into His Body For Phillies 

When McKinley Moore was summoned into a meeting during the final week of spring training, he thought the worst.

“I was nervous because that’s a time for cuts and releases,” he said. “My heart was beating out of my chest.”

White Sox officials assured Moore that everything was good. He hadn’t been released. He had been traded to the Phillies for outfielder Adam Haseley, the eighth overall pick in 2017.

“It flipped my world upside down for about 48 hours,” Moore said. “But it’s been a good thing.”

A bearish righthander who turned 24 this season and describes himself as “just shy of 6-foot-7, 250 pounds,” Moore reported to Double-A Reading and within a few weeks struck a bond with pitching coach Matt Hockenberry

Under Hockenberry’s tutelage, Moore changed the grip on his slider. The adjustment added sharp sweeping action, as well as command, to the pitch and has made it a real weapon. With a fastball that sits 96-97 mph and has touched 101 this season, Moore has become an intriguing reliever prospect for the Phillies.

“I love the back end of the game, pitching under pressure,” Moore said. “I love the adrenaline. It’s where I feel most valuable.”

The White Sox drafted Moore in the 14th round in 2019 out of Arkansas-Little Rock despite an 8.15 ERA and 23 walks in 17.2 innings that season.

His power arm got him drafted. His ability to command his power stuff will dictate how high he rises. Things are moving in the right direction. 

Through 34 appearances for Reading, Moore had struck out 64 and walked 23 in 43.2 innings to go with a 4.33 ERA.

“A lot of people look at my college numbers—and I agree, they weren’t the best—but I’ve continued to work on developing my skills,” Moore said. 

“Honestly, the biggest thing has been growing into my body. It took time. But now, I feel like I’m on a good track. I couldn’t be happier.”

—Jim Salisbury

Onward And Upward For Nationals’ Darren Baker 

In a span of less than a week, second baseman Darren Baker played in the Futures Game and made his Double-A debut.

The Nationals’ 10th-round pick in 2021 out of California, Baker started 6-for-24 with a home run for Harrisburg. At High-A Wilmington he had hit .273/.333/.367 with two home runs and 10 stolen bases in 62 games.

“I feel like it’s going good so far,” Baker said. “I definitely started better here than I did in Wilmington. There are small adjustments. Obviously, the command is a little better, but everybody still has to throw it over the plate.”

One of Baker’s highlights at Wilmington was a walk-off sacrifice fly on the same night his father Dusty became the 12th major league manager with 2,000 wins.

With the Blue Rocks, the 23-year-old Baker improved at making the pivot on double plays and at controlling at-bats. He drew 22 walks and struck out 51 times.

“His overall game has been good,” Nationals farm director De Jon Watson said. “He’s managing the strike zone well and hitting the ball around the ballpark. He was ready for the next challenge.”

The 6-foot, 180-pound Baker and Wilmington reliever Jose Ferrer—a late fill-in for Triple-A Rochester righthander Cade Cavalli—were the Nationals’ two representatives at the Futures Game at Dodger Stadium. 

In his one at-bat, the lefthanded-hitting Baker drilled a line drive to center field, but White Sox prospect Oscar Colas made a diving catch.

“Off the bat, I was hoping it would drop in,” Baker said. “It was a little tough to see with the shadows at that time. 

“I’m friends with Colas. We recently played them in Winston-Salem, and I gave him a hard time. When we were in the same league, it felt like he got to second base two times a game.”

For Harrisburg’s new second baseman, the trip to the Futures Game was a memorable experience.

“It was awesome,” Baker said. “Being from California and being able to go back and see a bunch of family was amazing.”

—Lacy Lusk


— The Braves bolstered their major league club at the Aug. 2 trade deadline without relinquishing any notable prospects. They swapped reliever Will Smith to the Astros for starter Jake Odorizzi, improving their rotation depth. They sent Low-A Augusta lefthander Kris Anglin to the Tigers for outfielder Robbie Grossman. They acquired closer Raisel Iglesias from the Angels in what amounted to a salary dump, though lefthander Tucker Davidson gave the Angels a controllable player with 37 career innings under his belt.

— The Braves made a rare trade ahead of the draft, sending three prospects, including outfielder Drew Waters, to the Royals for the No. 35 overall pick. They used that pick on Washington high school righthander JR Ritchie. Braves head of scouting Dana Brown said he was surprised to see Ritchie still available at that point. He topped out at 98 mph, and the Braves liked his strike-throwing prowess.

— Nationals outfielder Josh Palacios received a callup from Triple-A Rochester after Washington’s busy trade deadline activity sent Juan Soto and Josh Bell to San Diego. Palacios, an April waiver claim, had 35 at-bats with the Blue Jays last year and hit .294/.375/.443 in 78 games at Triple-A this season.

— Nationals righthander Raynel Moron threw the first 5.2 innings of a nine-inning no-hitter in a 5-0 win for the Dominican Summer League Nationals against the Mets 1 team. The DSL Nationals also didn’t allow a hit in their previous game—a 1-0 loss to the DSL Rangers in a seven-inning contest. Righthander Marcos Fortunato pitched six hitless and scoreless innings in that game.

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