National League West: August Prospect Notebook
D-backs’ Deyvison De Los Santos Attracts Attention
Third baseman Deyvison De Los Santos was having the kind of offensive season that tends to attract attention.
“I think he is about to get famous,” D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said. “I think he’s still kind of under the radar for a lot of people in the prospect rankings.
“What he’s doing is pretty special for a kid who is 19 years old in High-A already.”
De Los Santos hit .329/.370/.513 with 12 home runs in 78 games for Low-A Visalia, earning a July 22 promotion to High-A Hillsboro. Over his final 45 games for Visalia, he hit .390 with a .997 OPS.
“I just think when you look at the performance, the age relative to the league and you look at the quality of contact—the exit velocities—those are things that get people’s attention,” Barfield said.
De Los Santos still faces some of the same questions that he had entering the year. Namely, his swing decisions and his defensive profile.
His chase rate was nearly 38%—compared with an MLB average of around 29%—though D-backs executives are not overly concerned by it. Some believe he will eventually adjust once he reaches a level at which pitchers are able to exploit his aggressiveness.
Barfield sees some of that, but does not believe De Los Santos’ swing decisions are as concerning as the numbers might suggest.
“I don’t think all chase is created equal,” Barfield said. “I think his chase comes more from, at times, knowing he can get the barrel to pitches out of the zone. I don’t think it’s because he’s fooled all the time.”
Most evaluators believe De Los Santos eventually will move to first base. He has already begun to play there occasionally in Hillsboro, where he shares time at third with A.J. Vukovich.
Barfield points out that De Los Santos, despite his large frame, does things that point to him staying at third base.
“He moves well, his feet work well, he shows the ability to make all the plays that a third baseman can make and he has plenty of arm.”
Giants’ Grant McCray Stands Out In Many Areas
Outfielder Grant McCray “can beat a team in many different ways,” according to Giants farm director Kyle Haines.
The 21-year-old McCray had hit 15 home runs and stolen 30 bases through 89 games for Low-A San Jose, while hitting .283/.372/.497 with 49 walks and 130 strikeouts.
When McCray was asked in which part of his game he has the most confidence, he said simply: “Don’t hit the ball to center field.”
It’s no wonder Haines termed McCray “probably as much of a five-tool player as we have in the whole system and one of the better five-tool players” in the minor leagues.
The Giants drafted McCray in the third round in 2019 out of Lakewood Ranch High in Bradenton, Fla. He played 48 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League that summer, missed 2020 to the pandemic and then had an elbow issue in his right arm that delayed his 2021 debut until June 29.
This year, the lefthanded hitter endured a 7-for-43 (.163) April with San Jose before righting the ship and producing a .918 OPS over his next 75 games.
“He’s shown the dynamic player he’s capable of being in every aspect of the game,” Haines said.
McCray’s power has been something of a revelation. He hit just four home runs in his first two pro seasons.
“I’ve always had power, just nobody wanted to believe me,” said McCray, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. “Everybody thought I was just some skinny kid, but I’ve always had that juice in me.”
McCray’s father is Rodney McCray, an outfielder who spent parts of three seasons from 1990 to 1992 in MLB with the White Sox and Mets as part of a 10-year pro career.
Rodney is best known for running through an outfield wall in Portland, Ore., in 1991 while trying to catch a drive hit by Chip Hale in a Triple-A game.
Rodney later spent time as a minor league instructor, most notably in the Dodgers’ organization.
“Growing up around baseball,” Grant said, “it just shows you how hard you’ve really got to work.”
Dodgers Go ‘Rushing’ Back To Louisville For First-Round Pick
The Dodgers know how to find their way to the University of Louisville campus when it comes to draft time.
For the second time in the past three drafts, the Dodgers made a Cardinal their top draft pick.
Righthander Bobby Miller was their first pick in 2020 and has emerged as their top pitching prospect. Catcher Will Smith was their first pick in 2016 and handles the position in the big leagues.
This year, the Dodgers made catcher Dalton Rushing their first pick at No. 40 overall.
“I think we just really understand what they do there, how they train their players,” Dodgers scouting director Billy Gasparino said. “I think they build a great foundation for their players. I think we usually know what type of person we’re getting.
“I give them a lot of credit for what they do and the type of players and people they develop.”
The Dodgers aren’t alone in that. During head coach Dan McDonnell’s 16 years as Louisville’s head coach, 95 of his players have been drafted, including 33 in the first five rounds.
Included in that group is catcher Henry Davis, whom the Pirates drafted first overall in 2021.
Rushing sat behind Davis for two seasons, playing more first base than catcher. With Davis’ departure, Rushing took over as the primary catcher and blossomed as a hitter, batting .310/.470/.686 with 23 home runs in 64 games.
“As soon as I got that call, I knew it was a great fit,” Rushing said. “Louisville players do great in the Dodgers’ organization. I’m excited to get going.”
Gasparino said Rushing’s time as Davis’ backup might have obscured his value.
“I do think his athleticism is a little underappreciated,” Gasparino said. “I think most of the industry had doubts. He only caught two days a week. We think some of the sporadic playing time clouded what we think is a talented catcher.”
Grant Lavigne’s Offensive Breakthrough Forces Rockies’ Hand
Almost to a fault, first baseman Grant Lavigne showed an uncanny ability at the beginning of his career to lay off borderline pitches and draw walks.
Four years later, Lavigne paired those attributes with qualities befitting a masher in the middle of the order. As a result, he earned a promotion to Double-A Hartford.
“The pitch recognition is elite. The zone awareness is elite,” Rockies assistant player development director Jesse Stender said. “Then you start coupling that with him doing damage on balls in the zone, and you have a pretty lethal bat. So he has definitely taken that next step.”
An 11-game tear in which Lavigne went 21-for-44 with two home runs capped his 68-game stay at High-A Spokane. In all, he hit .315/.406/.469 with five homers during the season in which he turns 23.
Lavigne was the Rockies’ supplemental first-round pick in 2018 out of Bedford (N.H.) High. The following year, the Rockies took first baseman Michael Toglia out of UCLA with the 23rd overall pick.
Ideally, Toglia would have moved to Triple-A when Lavigne arrived at Hartford. That didn’t happen.
“At the end of the day, (Lavigne) forced our hand,” Stender said. “He was getting on base over the .400 mark.”
Toglia, who was hitting .233/.328/.455 in 94 games with 21 homers, also played outfield at UCLA. He played right field when Lavigne arrived at Hartford and will play there occasionally as a way for them to both get at-bats.
Toglia is far more polished at first base, where Lavigne is a work in progress. His hands, once stiff and hard, are vastly improved, and his scooping ability is solid. His reaction times and first-step quickness still need work.
The hope is that further experience will help make Lavigne a fringe-average defender.
“But really,” Stender said, “it’s all about the bat with this guy.”
Alek Jacob’s Dynamic Changeup Makes Him A Bullpen Option
Last summer, the Padres circled a number of senior college arms with starting experience who could move quickly in a bullpen. Drafted in the 16th round out of Gonzaga, Alek Jacob might fit that bill.
The 24-year-old righthander recorded a 1.04 ERA with 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 38.1 innings in High-A Fort Wayne and Double-A San Antonio.
That earned him a July 8 promotion to Triple-A El Paso, where he had struggled initially in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Jacob struck out 323 over 288.1 innings in college with a fastball that topped out at 89 mph, a deceptive delivery and plenty of pitchability.
The question Padres scouting director Mark Conner faced was: “How long can this last?”
It’s still a pertinent question. Jacob is hard to hit, having allowed 34 hits through his first 42.2 pro innings after signing for $75,000 as an under-the-radar arm vouched for by area scout Justin Baughman.
Former Padres senior analyst Dave Cameron also believed Jacob’s changeup could prove tough on pro hitters.
Jacob also throws a developing slider, but his low-70s changeup with fade and sink is what allows his subpar fastball to play up. That’s especially true because he commands both pitches and employs a whippy arm stroke that’s difficult for hitters to pick up.
Jacob has pitched so well that he has thrown himself into the big league bullpen mix, according to one high-ranking source.
“He’s a super smart kid,” said Conner, now the Padres’ minor league field coordinator. “He’s a big baseball guy. He studies the game, loves the game and knows how to change timing and stay off barrels.
“He’s been a fun one to watch.”
Hot Sheet Podcast: Deyvison De Los Santos, Evan Carter, More
In the second edition of the Hot Sheet Podcast, we discuss Deyvison De Los Santos, Evan Carter and more.
AROUND THE DIVISION
— The Dodgers signed another Louisville player—lefthander Carter Lohman—as an undrafted free agent. Other signees following the draft were righthander Connor Godwin of Central Florida JC, third baseman Livan Reinoso of Tennessee Wesleyan and righthander Christian Ruebeck of Kansas State.
— In the seventh round, the Dodgers drafted Christopher Campos out of Saint Mary’s. Campos is listed as a shortstop but also pitched in college. Scouting director Billy Gasparino said Campos will continue to do both with the Dodgers. “We’re going to try to do both and figure out a plan developmentally to maximize each and then just see which way it goes,” Gasparino said. “Maybe we get lucky and he can handle both. But we love his talent on both sides.” Current Dodgers righthander Tony Gonsolin was a two-way player at Saint Mary’s before becoming a pitcher exclusively in the Dodgers’ system.
— Rockies lefthander PJ Poulin was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque after posting a 2.21 ERA with six saves in 34 games for Double-A Hartford. He allowed 28 hits and 12 walks in 40.2 innings with 55 strikeouts. The Rockies drafted Poulin out of Connecticut in the 11th round in 2018.
— Rockies righthander Karl Kauffmann was promoted from Double-A Hartford, where he recorded a 4.06 ERA in 15 starts, to Triple-A Albuquerque. The Rockies drafted Kauffmann in the second round in 2019 out of Michigan. Righthander Tony Locey replaced Kauffmann in the Hartford rotation. Locey posted a 3.09 ERA in 12 starts for High-A Spokane. The Cardinals drafted Locey out of Georgia in the third round in 2019 and dealt him and four other players to the Rockies in the February 2021 trade that sent Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals.
— The Rockies drafted 15 pitchers and seven position players this year. Twenty-one of the 22 players drafted were college players. The only high school player selected was fourth-round righthander Jackson Cox, a product of Toutle Lake (Wash.) High.