Six Emerging Prospects From East Division Top 10s
Gathering information for BA Top 10 Prospects rankings each offseason never fails to turn up a few surprising names.
Most often this occurs with a young player who is building credentials in the low minors but has upside worthy of Top 10 inclusion. But because of the nature of the lost 2020 season, a number of more experienced players also popped in 2021.
Both types of players are included in this piece, in which I identify six emerging prospects from East Division Top 10s who caught my attention.
Scouting reports for the 100 players BA ranked as Top 10 Prospects for the American and National league East organizations are available as they are published online. Or you can read them in November issue of BA, now available in print or via eEdition on the BA app (subscription required).
Joel Diaz, RHP, Mets
Signed in January, Diaz debuted in the Dominican Summer League in July. He didn’t allow an earned run in his first 10 appearances and finished with an 0.54 ERA that is the lowest for a qualified 17-year-old pitcher in the DSL going back to 2006. The Mets are encouraged by Diaz’s combination of stuff, athleticism and overall feel. He pitches at 92-96 mph and already has both feel for spinning a curveball and confidence in his changeup. Under normal circumstances, Diaz would have been considered for an in-season promotion to the Florida Complex League, but Covid and visa restrictions prevented that in 2021.
Leo Jimenez, SS/2B, Blue Jays
Jimenez produced one of the great outlier numbers you will see in a full-season league. In 54 games for Low-A Dunedin, the 20-year-old Panamanian produced a .517 on-base percentage, the product of hitting .315, drawing 51 walks and being hit by 21 pitches. He has one career home run but is a capable defender up the middle as well as an on-base machine. A dislocated shoulder limited Jimenez’s playing time in 2021, so he didn’t qualify for the minor league batting title, but players who compile a .500 OBP in full-season ball are rare. In the past 40 years, just two qualified hitters have done it: Nick Johnson at .525 in 1999 and Gerry Davis at .504 in 1981.
Ian Lewis, 2B, Marlins
The Marlins signed Lewis out of the Bahamas in 2019, in the same international class that also yielded Eury Perez and Jose Salas for Miami. Lewis’ combination of power and barrel accuracy is highly encouraging. The 18-year-old switch-hitter’s .195 isolated slugging ranked 12th among qualifiers in the Florida Complex League and his strikeout rate was fifth lowest. Lewis and his FCL Marlins teammates played home games in a suppressive run environment—73 park factor for runs—so his adjusted production is even more impressive than his raw output.
Coby Mayo, 3B, Orioles
Mayo could be the key to the Orioles’ 2020 draft. Signed for more than $1 million above slot in the fourth round of the truncated five-round draft, Mayo turned in a loud pro debut in 2021, hitting for average and power as he rose to Low-A Delmarva. Something else he did was make frequent contact, even as a 6-foot-5 hitter with long levers. Among 19-year-olds with 200 plate appearances, Mayo ranked sixth with a .236 isolated slugging and 13th best with an 18.5% strikeout rate.
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Willy Vasquez, SS, Rays
A product of the Rays’ 2019 international signing class, Vasquez made a brief pro debut in the Dominican Summer League that year. Two years later he became a Top 10 Prospect in a deep Tampa Bay system. The 20-year-old Vasquez combines the agility to remain at shortstop with the improving physicality to impact the ball. His .382 on-base percentage ranked 11th in the Florida Complex League, thanks to a 20-to-27 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 40 games.
Hayden Wesneski, RHP, Yankees
Wesneski developed without the aid of traditional player development during the pandemic in 2020 and then emerged in 2021 as one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects. The 2019 sixth-rounder from Sam Houston State climbed to Triple-A this season with a five-pitch mix headlined by a strong fastball and curveball. His 3.25 ERA ranked top 30 among pitchers with 100 innings in the minors, backed fully by a strikeout-minus-walk percentage of 21.9% that ranked 29th. That's impressive for a pitcher who spent most of the season at Double-A.