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Beck's Prospect Team of the Month, June 2023
Zac Beck runs down the top prospects from the month of June.
We’re around the halfway mark for both the MLB and MiLB seasons with the draft right around the corner, which means we’re wrapping our third prospect team of the month. There has yet to be a repeat appearance on any of the three, which is great for variety and helping with my end-of-season write-ups, and is due in part to five players from previous iterations making their major league debuts: Colton Cowser, Elly De La Cruz, Henry Davis, Andrew Abbott, and Matt Mervis!
As a reminder, while this is technically my team of the month, it’s only my team insofar as it’s comprised of prospects that appeared (or will appear) on my latest update. The rest is up to the players. Those who performed the best in June made the cut. Better luck in July to those that missed.
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Honorable Mention: Haydn McGeary, Chicago Cubs (AA)
June: .369/.454/.631 with 5 HRs and 2 SBs in 97 PA
I need to bend some ears in the industry about McGeary because he is not nearly talked about enough. He had a preposterous career at D2 Colorado Mesa and has power that rivals just about any prospect in affiliated baseball.
He’s firmly on my watch list and will be inside my top 200 as I work to expand my midseason update. I would get in early if you can, especially considering the cost to acquire may be nonexistent at this juncture.
I also owe Haydn an apology for misspelling his first name several times earlier in the year. Names are important and I do my best – so Haydn (notably not Hadyn), if you’re reading this, I apologize.
SP: Cade Horton, Chicago Cubs (A+)
June: 0.92 ERA, 40.3% K%, 8.3% BB%, 35.2% CSW in 19.2 IP
I was one of the people who chortled when the Cubs took Horton 7th overall in the 2022 draft, incredulous at the thought of selecting a college arm with such little track record that had already suffered a torn UCL. Boy, was I wrong. Serves me right for thinking I was smarter than Chicago’s front office even if only momentarily.
We’re still looking at a small sample for a collegiate arm at A and A+ this year, but Horton has been one of the most dominant pitchers in professional baseball (minor league or otherwise) this year. He’s a special athlete who committed to Oklahoma to play both baseball and football. He has two plus or better pitches in his fastball and slider, both of which have flummoxed hitters thus far, as well as a curveball and a changeup he throws less often.
I’m waiting to see how the performance translates when he gets to more age-appropriate levels before going too crazy. The stuff looks excellent on video. He’s my #58 prospect and #14 arm at the time of writing and it isn’t inconceivable to think he’s a top 5 pitching prospect in baseball at season’s end.
C: Samuel Basallo, Baltimore Orioles (A)
June: .309/.411/.543 with 5 HRs and 3 SBs in 95 PAs
The Orioles have graduated or debuted Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, Jordan Westburg, Colton Cowser, and Joey Ortiz this year and still have a despicable amount of talent in their system. Basallo is one of the gems emerging from the lower levels of Baltimore’s system and he’s coming off a heater in June.
Basallo commanded $1.3M in January of 2021, the most ever committed to an international signee by the Orioles. He has real thump for a youngster that could play at a corner should he need to move off of the catcher position, which gives him flexibility and improves his likelihood of being a productive fantasy asset in the future. I’m not typically a fan of investing in young catchers for fantasy purposes as the marginal returns are typically smaller than that of shortstops or outfielders, but his bat is compelling enough to warrant rostering and seeing where he takes you.
1B: Abimelec Ortiz, Texas Rangers (A+)
June: .374/.442/723 with 8 HRs in 95 PA
In the bandbox, the tiny bandbox, a lion rakes tonight… Abimelec, Abimelec, Abimelec, Abimelec!
That’s a tidy little earworm that will stay with me every time I read his name, and I hope to have passed that affliction on to you. He had an outright blistering June that catapulted him onto the prospect scene with gusto. Ortiz is a big-bodied first-base prospect whose bat will need to continue to produce offensively for him to be a viable major leaguer. He’s prone to chase issues, particularly on breaking balls that could portend further hit tool issues arising as he faces better competition.
Sometimes in dynasty leagues, you have to play prospects like the stock market. Abimelec Ortiz stock is through the roof. Offloading him to a particularly enthusiastic league mate could prove prudent.
2B: Tyler Black, Milwaukee Brewers (AA)
June: .347/.449/.653 with 4 HRs and 16 SBs in 90 PA
I really don’t know what to make of Tyler Black’s stolen base binge this year. He was billed as an average to above-average runner but has managed to compile a whopping 40 stolen bases on the year to pair with 11 home runs.
A product of Toronto, Canada, Black was drafted 33rd overall by the Brewers in 2021 because of his tremendous plate discipline. He’s shown that off this year, too, compiling 50 walks in 282 plate appearances en route to a .426 OBP. It shouldn’t be all too long before we see him in Nashville and eventually, Milwaukee where he has the potential to be a top-of-the-order OBP machine. He’s probably underrated and undervalued in your leagues and is worth inquiring about before his price rises significantly.
3B: Coby Mayo, Baltimore Orioles (AA)
June: .340/.467/.711 with 8 HRs and 2 SBs in 120 PA
One of the dominoes that fell when the Orioles took Heston Kjerstad, no. 2 overall and signed him for significantly under slot value was their ability to snag Mayo in the fourth round and pay him $1.75M, more than a million dollars over slot. Pre-draft reports tagged him as a strong, athletic kid with a double-plus arm and 70-grade power. That praise has been largely warranted thus far.
Mayo came in at #51 on my Midseason Top 100 that was released in late June, which feels conservative already. It hasn’t been a linear path for Mayo as he’s struggled at some stops, most notably in his first stint at AA, but he’s been assigned aggressively throughout his minor league tenure and combatted injury in 2022. If he’s an average hitter at the big league level he’ll be a threat to post 30 home run seasons annually.
SS: Michael Arroyo, Seattle Mariners (Rk, A)
June: .377/.472/.656 with 2 HRs and 4 SBs in 72 PA
The largest signing bonus to a Colombian player in 2018 went to Michael Arroyo, a young shortstop who represented Colombia in youth tournaments across multiple countries that impressed with his plate discipline and swing decisions. His Dominican Summer League numbers as a 17-year-old were exciting and he’s continued his rise stateside by jumping two levels in the first half of 2023. He spent just 4 games in the Arizona Complex before joining the Modesto Nuts of the Cal League, where he has a .320/.424/.600 line in 59 plate appearances.
Arroyo figures to profile extremely well in points formats. He just missed my Midseason Top 100 and will be there after graduations from the top of the list. His zone control is the leading tool and there’s room for added strength despite a small frame.
OF 1: Luis Matos, San Francisco Giants (AAA)
June: .320/.369/.592/.962 with 8 HRs and 4 SBs in 103 PA
Matos wasn’t long for Triple-A as he spent under a month with the Sacramento River Cats. He was promoted to the big league club after just 24 games and 116 plate appearances in the PCL. He slugged seven home runs in 53 PAs and compiled a .440/.453/.920 line from June 1 to June 13 before he was promoted to San Francisco. That .920 figure is slugging, not OPS.
Matos is an excellent buy right now. The worst time to buy a prospect is immediately after their debut is announced, and the best time to go fishing for them is when they haven’t yet found their footing after a few weeks in the show. He’s still making tons of contact (83.9% z-con) and refraining from swinging outside of the zone (24.1% chase), but the quality of contact hasn’t quite come around. The bat-to-ball ability paired with a solid approach give him a solid floor in points formats, and his defensive ability in center will afford him more at-bats to figure it out.
OF 2: Hector Rodriguez, Cincinnati Reds (A)
June: .333/.360/.667/1.027 with 6 HRs and 6 SBs in 100 PA
Rodriguez was part of the 2022 deadline exchange that sent Tyler Naquin and Phillip Diehl to New York, a trade in a long string of Mets transactions that has seen them giving up promising lower-level players in exchange for help at the big league level. On one hand you have to respect doing what you can to bolster winning chances, on the other hand you wish those trades had resulted in a whole lot more.
A lot of this is retrospective and hindsight is 20/20. That said, Rodriguez is destroying the Florida State League (A) to the tune of a .309/.363/.584 triple-slash and leading the league in home runs with 14. His June wasn’t head-and-shoulders better than the entirety of his campaign and it was still good enough to be a top-3 surface level performance among all outfielders in the minor leagues.
He landed just outside my Midseason Top-100 Prospects and should be a priority add.
OF 3: Ryan Clifford, Houston Astros (A+)
June: .310/.432/.606/1.037 with 5 HRs in 88 PA
One of the best things to look for when identifying FYPD values is signing bonuses later in the draft. Clifford took home $1.25M as an 11th round pick in 2022, a figure that turned heads at the time and has proven a prudent investment thus far. His bonus only trailed that of Drew Gilbert in Houston’s draft class.
Clifford is 6-foot-3, 200lbs, and is close to physically maxed out. There are some concerns about his ability to make consistent contact, but his plus approach with plus power is translating to professional baseball quickly. He’s not a tremendous athlete in terms of speed or defensive ability, so his bat will need to carry him as a corner masher. The profile is more attractive for points formats than roto.
The Astros moved Clifford from Low-A Fayetteville to Asheville in May. While there was a clear and immediate adjustment period following his promotion, he found his footing and was lights out in June collecting 22 hits, half of which were of the extra base variety. Asheville is known hitter’s paradise, ranking 11th in team run context and 14th in home run context out of 120 parks between 2021 and 2022. How he performs upon arrival to AA will be very telling – he could be a huge riser on industry lists should the performance translate to yet another level this year.