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Prospect Team of the Month, July 2023
Zac Beck breaks down the top prospects from each position
Prospect Team of the Month, July 2023
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The trade deadline has come and gone, and not a single one of these players were moved. For most, that was a foregone conclusion — under almost no circumstances are the Brewers parting with Chourio, nor the Padres with Salas — for others, it is deeply disappointing (I’m looking at you Michael Busch). In any event, a quiet deadline means fewer teams to update in my rankings, and I’m quite alright with that.
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 ranking update. The rest is up to the players. Those who performed the best in June made the cut. Better luck in August to those that missed.
Honorable Mention: Dylan Beavers, Baltimore Orioles (A+)
July: .397/.494/.691 with 4 HRs and 5 SBs in 87 PA
Reaching base in nearly half your plate appearances over an entire month, even if slightly abbreviated because of the All-Star Break, must feel awfully good. Beavers did it by walking nearly 20% of the time and reducing his K-rate to the lowest it’s been in any month this season.
I took some interest in him following his selection in the first round of the 2022 draft (#33 overall) for his power/speed potential and hitting mechanics that bear resemblance to Christian Yelich, but he got off to a slow start with a poor May. He’s likely to re-enter my top 200 in the next update.
SP: Robby Snelling, San Diego Padres (A+)
July: 2.89 ERA, 28.9% K%, 7.9% BB%, 35.2% CSW in 18.2 IP
In an interesting turn of events, July was actually Snelling’s worst month this season by ERA. He carried a 1.13 ERA in April, a 1.15 ERA in May, and a 2.25 ERA in June. He’s one of the few true pop-up pitching prospects this year among a crop that hasn’t totally solidified yet. There was intrigue around him when he signed for a well over-slot bonus of $3M as the 39th overall pick in the 2022 draft, but there’s an adage about prep pitching (and pitching in general) we’re all aware of that made folks a little hesitant to push him too aggressively. Most FYPD rankings had him outside of their top 50.
For his part, Snelling has made good on the lofty bonus. He’s extremely athletic on the mound and a former 4-star quarterback recruit for LSU. His fastball and slider are already very good and there’s a burgeoning change-up on the way. Development on that third pitch will be key for him dispensing righties as he progresses. It looks like there is a mid-rotation upside today with room for more.
C: Ethan Salas, San Diego Padres (A)
July: .366/.416/.720/1.135 with 7 HRs and 2 SBs in 89 PA
I mean, what’s left to say? He’s a 17-year-old (reiterated for emphasis, he’s seventeen) putting up a 3/4/7 slash over an entire month span in full-season professional baseball. I can’t recall another prospect being this young and this good this fast. He is easily a top-10 prospect in all of baseball for real-life lists as an advanced bat who plays a premium defensive position and does it well.
I’ve pushed him inside my top 50 to #42 overall and #4 among catchers, noting that he is a long way from big league contribution and ultimately carries a smidge less value as a catcher.
1B: Ivan Melendez, Arizona Diamondbacks (AA)
July: .303/.357/.737/1.094 with 9 HRs in 84 PA
I wasn’t super in on Melendez around draft time, even as he went on to win the Golden Spikes award for Texas. There is a lot of pressure on his bat given that he profiles best at first base, so he’ll have to slug his way into big league viability. To his credit, he socked 9 home runs in the month of July to bring his season-long total to 25. He has the juice – no doubt there – but there are other concerns with his hit tool that need to be addressed.
Melendez is striking out in 34.3% of plate appearances in 2023 and 37.1% in Double-A. It’s worth noting that Amarillo, the Diamondbacks’ Double-A Affiliate, is a very hitter friendly environment and is where a majority of the July production happened.
2B: Michael Busch, Los Angeles Dodgers (AAA)
July: .324/.434/.696/1.131 with 11 HRs and 1 SB in 122 PA
The prospect fatigue with Michael Busch is very real. He’s almost 26 and has accrued over 850 plate appearances at AAA. I don’t want to rank him anymore, you probably don’t want to read about him anymore, but he’s actually worth talking about even if briefly.
He desperately needed a trade out of Los Angeles. You have to wonder if he would have been part of the Eduardo Rodriguez trade to Detroit that was blocked by the no-trade clause in E-Rod’s contract. The Dodgers acquired both Amed Rosario and Kiké Hernandez at the deadline, further blocking Busch. It’s a real bummer to see more roadblocks placed in his way to regular playing time, particularly because he’s been excellent at Triple-A this year and far better than he was at the level in 2022.
There remains some intrigue in points formats. He’s still a top 100 prospect by talent. We don’t know when he’ll get the opportunity, but he can probably be had for very cheap and is a good bet to return value when he finally gets big league run.
3B: Justyn-Henry Malloy, Detroit Tigers (AAA)
July: .346/.471/.546 with 3 HRs and 0 SB in 68 PA
Malloy was the return piece to Detroit in exchange for reliever Joe Jiménez last December. He’s been very good with Atlanta, but they had to part with a very interesting prospect in Malloy to retain his services and Malloy is doing his best to prove that move was ill-advised long term.
He’s played in 91 games for the Toledo Mudhens and has been very good in his first season in the Tigers’ system, amassing an .875 OPS to pair with 16 home runs, 13 doubles, 3 stolen bases, and a sub-25% K-rate. It’s unclear where he’ll play for Detroit when given the opportunity, as he’s primarily played third but has also seen time in the corner outfield and Detroit’s top prospect Colt Keith also figures to vie for playing time third.
Malloy was very buzzy going into the AFL, where he showed well, but has seemingly been forgotten since his move north. This is a good-not-great prospect who could surprise people upon promotion. He is currently outside my top 100.
SS: Masyn Winn, St. Louis Cardinals (AA)
July: .359/.427/.750/1.177 with 8 HRs and 2 SBs in 103 PA
Where’s the power?! There’s the power. Winn doubled his home run total from April, May, and June combined in just 103 plate appearances in July. He’s been particularly difficult for me to rank for points formats, especially given that his leading tools are the glove, arm, and speed, but I’m warming back up to the idea that he should be inside the top 50 regardless of format.
With the deadline departure of Paul DeJong and season-ending forearm injury to Brendan Donovan, I think it’s pretty likely we will see at least a late season vignette from Winn. If there is true impact potential like he demonstrated last month, I’m not sure I see a ton of differences between him and a player like Jordan Lawlar. I’ll still take the latter for ceiling purposes, but Winn will earn his fair share of playing time by virtue of his defense alone.
OF 1: Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers (AA)
July: .388/.447/.718/1.164 with 6 HRs and 9 SBs in 94 PA
No tacky ball, no problem. The Southern League and all other minor league circuits that were experimenting with a pre-tacked baseball (applying an approved sticky substance to the surface of the baseball for all pitchers to use uniformly) ditched the formula after the All Star Break. Chourio wreaked absolute havoc in the 15 games immediately following the tacky crackdown, pummeling 5 of his 6 homers for the month, stealing 8 of his 9 bases, and walking more than he struck out.
While his surface numbers before July weren’t jaw-dropping, watching him live told a completely different story. It’s important to remember that he is the youngest player at the Double-A level, so any amount of hanging in there he’s doing is impressive on its own. He has lightning fast hands, is a plus runner and defender, and can spray the ball to all fields with authority. If the Chourio owner in your league was down on him 3 weeks ago, he certainly isn’t now. He is among the most ‘untouchable’ prospects in baseball and should have been from opening day this year.
OF 2: Chase DeLauter, Cleveland Guardians (A+)
July: .468/.490/.766/1.256 with 1 HR and 2 SBs in 49 PA
It’s a small sample. He’s not here because of sustained success, he’s here because this performance came at High-A and was the very first action we’ve seen from DeLauter outside of rehab stints in the Arizona Complex. His entire minor league track record is just 97 plate appearances, so the jury is still a little out on what he’ll blossom into, but the surface-level performance we do have for that sample is excellent.
DeLauter was another small school first round pick a la Colton Cowser, a demographic I’m coming to enjoy greatly as I dive into Nolan Schanuel in this year’s class. There was a period of time when DeLauter was thought of as a potential #1 overall selection but a broken foot in his senior year at James Madison left him without much opportunity to prove he could contend with the best college pitching in the country.
He’s a candidate for a huge rise should he be able to sustain this success and stay healthy. He now has a track record of injury to his lower extremities, but remains a very exciting prospect with power and speed upside.
OF 3: Gabriel Gonzalez, Seattle Mariners (A+)
July: .338/.424/.770/1.194 with 9 HRs and 1 SB in 85 PA
The Mariners nabbed Gonzalez in the ‘20-‘21 international class for $1.3M. He led the DSL in extra base hits that following summer, then found himself at the Arizona Complex in 2022 for his stateside debut He finished last year with Single-A Modesto where he more than held his own, striking out just 14% of the time. He’s a natural hitter with the ability to put the barrel on the ball consistently, and has also flashed serious power for a teenager.
The Mariners are loaded with interesting international signings led by Lazaro Montes, Felnin Celesten, and Jeter Martinez, but Gonzalez is by far the most interesting right now. The hope is that he’ll be able to rein in some of the poor swing decisions and stay agile enough to play a corner outfield spot as he matures. He is otherwise a very exciting offensive profile and is playing extremely well as a 19 year old in High-A.