Spring Training Intel On 12 Phillies, Blue Jays And Rays Prospects


Image credit: Phillies prospect Justin Crawford. (Photo/Tom DiPace)

In the second week of minor league backfield coverage, I further explored the Clearwater pod getting deeper looks into the Phillies and Blue Jays system. I also traveled down to Fort Myers for a Red Sox versus Rays backfield tilt between upper minors (Triple-A and Double-A) squads. I lost a day due to rain, limiting the second day of looks in the Fort Myers pod. Regardless, there was plenty of premium talent participating in minor league backfield games. 

Here are some players that stuck out over the last week. There’s a higher premium on players I saw multiple times.


Justin Crawford, OF: Crawford showed clear plus bat-to-ball ability and blazing double-plus speed across a pair of looks in the Spring Breakout Game and a Double-A backfield game. He collected a pair of hits and stole a base at Spring Breakout. In the backfield game, Crawford reached base multiple times and added four steals.

Crawford’s swing is geared to put the ball in play, and he’s often unbalanced when making contact. His double-plus running ability allows him to make every ball in play a potential hit. However, he’ll need to improve his balance at the plate and get to more of his raw power. There’s bat speed and Crawford has size and potential for added strength in the coming years. Crawford does hit the ball hard, but consistently makes contact at negative launch angles. In the field, Crawford takes  graceful gazelle-like strides in center field and covers large swaths of the outfield. He’s a potential leadoff hitter and plus center fielder with the ability to take advantage of the recent rules changes to promote base stealing. 

Starlyn Caba, SS: As covered in part one of the Florida backfield notes, the West Coast pods of Florida are littered with highly-rated shortstop prospects. Defensively, none may hold a candle to Caba. He consistently impressed in the field across a trio of looks. Caba showed plus range, smooth succinct actions and a strong, accurate arm. There’s one play that stands out in particular: a dribbler in the infield grass just to the third base side of second. Caba ranged to his left came in on the ball fielded it cleanly and nabbed the runner at first with a dart of a jump throw.

At the plate Caba is a switch-hitter with advanced bat-to-ball skills and a discerning eye. There’s not much power at present and Caba isn’t overly physical. He’s still extremely young, as he turned 18 in December. There’s typically power development to come between 18 to 21, and it will likely be more than fringe-average power. Overall, Caba is a talented player on both sides of the ball. He has a realistic shot at being a plus defender at short in the major leagues. 

Eduardo Tait, C: Tait is advanced hitting teenage catcher with plus power present for his age. He’s already quite physical despite not turning 18 until August. Tait was the designated hitter across three different games. The Phillies showed belief in his bat, however, as he did see one start in the High-A game. It’s fringe-average contact and Tait will expand the zone, but he shows an uncanny ability to make his best contact at optimal angles. This hints at long-term power-hitting ability that should only improve with age. 

Aidan Miller, 3B: Miller has the highest profile of the Phillies’ talented young core in the lower minors. Miller was a high-exposure prep talent that ranked among the top high school players in the 2023 draft. He’s a talented and high-skill hitter with an average side build with broad shoulders. Miller shows advanced bat-to-ball skills and has a plan at the plate. He shows slightly above-average raw power for his age and level, but it looks to be limited power projection as he’s already fairly strong.

Across four looks, Miller played mostly shortstop and some third base. His footwork and reactions at short were choppy, but he shows a strong arm capable of making all the throws from the left side of the infield. Miller is listed as a third baseman, and that’s a position his skills will fit into nicely. Miller looks like a hit-first third baseman, that hits for average and puts up 18-23 home runs at peak. 

Devin Saltiban, SS: A talented high school outfielder from the Hawaiian prep ranks, Saltiban was moved into the dirt by the Phillies after the draft and has been one of their higher helium names in camp. Saltiban is slightly undersized but has a strong and stout build that should add good strength. He shows plus bat speed, with a swing that allows him to make his best contact at good launch angles. Saltiban is twitchy and has a smooth righthanded swing. His contact is fringy, but it looks like an area where he’ll improve as he gets more reps against the advanced competition he didn’t see as a high school player in Hawaii. A high-upside prep with plenty of tools to develop into an everyday regular at peak. 

Jaydenn Estanista, RHP: The Phillies minor league games are littered with pitchers with big stuff, to the point it’s begun to feel like a defining characteristic of the organization’s amateur identification process. Estanista is an international signing out of Curaçao in 2019. Strikes have long been an issue, but in this look he was around the zone and showed premium stuff. His fastball sat 94-95 mph, touched 96 mph and was up to 20 inches of induced vertical break. He mixed a a high-80s cutter that generated whiffs. It was a good inning of work, but he looked like an unlikely future starting candidate. 


Landen Maroudis, RHP: Toronto’s player development was particularly enamored with Maroudis after the team drafted the projectable righty out of local Tampa high school powerhouse Cavalry Christian. In my single look, the reason for optimism were obvious. Maroudis worked three innings against a talented Low-A Phillies lineup that featured Aidan Miller, Eduardo Tait, Tjjay Walton and Devin Saltiban. Maroudis dominated. He sat 94-95 mph on his fastball showing some ride and run and touching 96 mph at peak. He showed two different breaking balls shapes, a harder sweeper at 84-86 mph and a curveball with similar horizontal break to his slider with late vertical drop. All three of Maroudis’ pitches generated whiffs. He struck out five over three innings of work and consistently overwhelmed the Phillies lineup.

This was one of the better performances on the backfields I’ve seen in the last few seasons for a recent high school draftee. There’s a chance that Maroudis breaks camp with Low-A Dunedin. It’s possible he does a short tour of duty in the Florida Complex League with the date moved up to May for the 2024 season. Maroudis is a young righthander with starter traits, a fairly clean operation and a three-pitch mix that showed the ability to miss bats in this start.

Brandon Barriera, LHP: Barriera, the Blue Jays’ 2022 first-round pick, followed Maroudis in the Low-A game I saw. After dealing with conditioning issues and injuries in his professional debut, Barriera physically looked closer to his high school self. He worked two innings throwing his four-seam fastball and signature slider. In the first, Barriera was mostly 92-93 mph mixing in his slider at 84-86 mph. The slider had hard sweep and he showed fairly good command of the pitch. His fastball, however, cuts and often found the breadbox of hitters. In the second inning, Barriera dropped down to more 90-91 mph. I even caught a few 89 mph on the radar gun. Barriers shows one above-average pitch. He needs to improve his average fastball velocity and desperately needs a third pitch. It’s a work in progress, but I wouldn’t write off Barriera yet.

Carson Pierce, RHP: A 2023 undrafted free agent, Pierce was a relative unknown to me when he started the High-A game on Sunday. Pierce mixed three pitches: a fastball at 92-93 mph, a slider in the low 80s and a changeup. Pierce’s changeup was arguably the most interesting individual pitch I saw on the backfields this spring.

It’s a screwball-like changeup, not dissimilar from Devin Williams “airbender.” Pierce spins the pitch at 2400-2500 rpms creating drop (one inch of induced vertical break) and 22 inches of horizontal break on average. With a lower three-quarters arm slot, the pitch comes out of the hand at a horizontal angle making it look like a breaking ball out of the hand before it downshifts and runs hard to the armside. The pitch consistently followed opposing batters and led to plenty of ugly swings. If Pierce can build on his current fastball velocity he has a chance to develop into an effective relief option in time. 


Junior Caminero, 3B: Caminero was clearly the best player I saw on the backfields this spring. The Rays’ super prospect started the Triple-A game last Thursday and showed his impressive hitting ability, spitting on chase pitches, working deep into counts and pouncing on mistakes. After walking in his first at-bat, Caminero hit a 114 mph triple, opening up his stride as he came around second and legging out the triple. He looked like a major leaguer rehabbing in a minor league spring training game. It wouldn’t surprise me if his early-season minor league time is limited to a few weeks to a month. His barrel is as loud as a shotgun when he makes contact. The cliche is the ball sounds different off the bat. Caminero is one of those guys.

Keyshawn Askew, LHP: I haven’t seen Askew in person since he was a freshman at Clemson. Askew always had deceptive traits and a whippy arm, but his command was often a question. His stuff looked good in this appearance, mixing a two-seam fastball and slider from his sidearm lefthanded slot, flashing a changeup. Askew pitched well in the Triple-A game and looks like he could be interesting piece out of the Rays bullpen in the next handful of years. 

Alfredo Zarraga, RHP: Acquired from the Cubs in a 2022 offseason trade that sent Miles Mastrobuoni the other way, Zarraga has the look of an effective relief option in the coming years. He’s undersized, but showed a tricky two-pitch combination. He mixed a four-seam fastball at 93-95 mph with ride and run and a low-to-mid-80s slider. He had particularly good success against lefthanded hitters driving whiffs against his fastball at a high rate. 

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