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Zac Beck's Prospect Team of the Month, April 2023
Zac Beck breaks down the top prospect performances in April.
We’re a month into the Minor League season, and we’ve already seen new prospects break out, top prospects struggle to find their footing, and scintillating seasons emerge up and down my ranks. I’ll be recapping the best performances of each month of the season from a top-line statistical perspective. April is headlined by recent draftees dominating in their first full professional season, top prospects continuing their trajectories to hopeful stardom, and truly unforeseen scorching starts. Let’s dive in!
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HM: Jackson Holliday, Baltimore Orioles (A/A+)
Look, I get it. A lot of you wanted Holliday on the team of the month. Caminero just barely edged him out from a surface-level perspective. If I had to do it over again and place players where I think they’ll actually end up on the diamond I would put Holliday at SS, slide Caminero to 3B, move Thompson to the outfield, and bench Nolan Jones.
Holliday earned himself a late-April promotion to High-A Aberdeen by compiling a .357/.489/.608 line in 19 games. He’s showing off what could be a 70/60 hit/power combo at peak. I moved him to #6 in my last update, trailing just Jordan Walker, James Wood, Elly De La Cruz, Jackson Chourio, and Kyle Manzardo. That could prove to be too conservative in short order.
SP: Andrew Abbott, Cincinnati Reds (AA/AAA)
Toeing the rubber for our fictional all-star team is a 2022 Future’s Game participant who had a solid if unspectacular campaign last year, notching 159 strikeouts in 118.0 innings (12.1 K/9) en route to a 3.81 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. His stuff has taken a jump this year and his velocity has ticked up, too. Batters have no idea what to do with it. In April, Abbott pitched to a 1.74 ERA by striking out 43 batters in 20.2 innings (18.7 K/9) and walking just 6 (2.6 BB/9).
It’ll be difficult to parse how much of the stuff gains can be attributed to true talent and how much is the result of Double-A competition experimenting with a pre-tacked baseball (read: sticky stuff), but Abbott’s numbers are hard to argue with either way. He averaged 17” of induced vertical break on his four-seam fastball in 2022, a figure that jumped to over 20” at Double-A Chattanooga this year. He’s since been promoted to Triple-A.
C: Henry Davis, Pittsburgh Pirates (AA)
The first overall selection in 2021 was widely considered the best college bat in the class at a premier defensive position. He’s been a solid hitter as a professional while playing through seasons marred by injury, but perhaps not as dominant against low level competition as prognosticators would have hoped.
Now fully healthy, Davis has started to demonstrate why he was a coveted draft prospect coming out of Louisville. His OPS finished at 1.107 in 73 April plate appearances on the back of 6 home runs, a double, and a triple. He also walked as much as he struck out (15:15 K:BB, 20.5% each). I was lower on him coming into the season than I likely should have been, and he’ll be in consideration for top-70 in my next update after sitting at 99 in the early April iteration.
1B: Matt Mervis, Chicago Cubs (AAA)
Most of the pre-season hype for Mervis evaporated after the offseason signings of Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer relegated him to toil away at Triple-A to open the year, but Mervis made it awfully hard to ignore his presence with a blistering April. His 11 XBHs and 14:12 K:BB in 87 PAs earned him a promotion to the big league club, sending Hosmer to the bench indefinitely.
Mervis was magnificent in 2022, improving his K% and BB% in lockstep as he climbed the Cubs’ system across 3 levels. He was #44 in my prospect ranks prior to his call up.
2B: Jorbit Vivas, Los Angeles Dodgers (AA)
His name is reminiscent of a pharmaceutical product and Texas League pitchers may have needed a dose after contending with him and the remainder of the Tulsa lineup so far this year. Vivas posted a 1.125 OPS in 96 PAs in April, showcasing unprecedented pop and excellent contact ability.
His underlying power numbers don’t suggest this is sustainable or indicative of a true breakout, but profiles like Vivas’ are valuable in points formats — especially those that penalize K’s — and shouldn’t be quickly dismissed. He ranked #205 in my last prospect update and has upward mobility with continued success.
3B: Sterlin Thompson, Colorado Rockies (A+)
Selected 31st overall in the 2022 Amateur Draft, Thompson was an impressive all-around hitter in the SEC praised for his advanced hit tool. He’s lived up to the billing so far, walking more than striking out (6:7 K:BB, 7.7% and 9.0% respectively) and swatting 14 XBHs (8 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs).
This kind of performance isn’t entirely unexpected. A number of industry writers and scouts agree that SEC competition is stronger than what Thompson is facing in High-A, and we should exercise patience before moving him too quickly up boards. I haven’t had quite the impulse control that others have demonstrated, and Thompson currently sits at #101 in my live ranks. I love his profile for points formats.
SS: Junior Caminero, Tampa Bay Rays (A+)
If you weren’t familiar with Caminero before the turn of the calendar year, you certainly are now. He’s an engagement cheat code, as content featuring him generates traffic like no other name has this year. It’s for good reason: he’s really, really good at baseball.
His underlying metrics are eye-popping. They’ve translated to equally provocative surface-level stats. He slashed .342/.390/.697 in the opening month of the season, clubbing 8 home runs (31% of his total hits) for Bowling Green. He’s on the superstar path after demolishing the Australian Baseball League in the offseason to the tune of a .981 OPS while being 7 years younger than the average player.
OF 1: Jonatan Clase, Seattle Mariners (A+)
Clase posted video game numbers to start the 2023 season with 7 home runs and 16 (!!) stolen bases in April. Despite the strong performance so far, he’s probably the player I’m the most tepid on among those on the team of the month.
He played all of his April games at Everett, which had a home run park factor of 154 in 2022 and is considered a launch pad that inflates batter performance. His 1.154 OPS pairs with a 26.5% K%, a figure that is only marginally better than his 26.7% mark in 2022.
Incredible speed is the carrying tool, and Clase has churned out 119 stolen bases in 208 games in his minor league career. They offer some mitigation to the points lost from strikeouts but don’t weigh as heavily in the format, so while it’s nice to see him impact the game in other ways I can’t move him as aggressively as others.
OF 2: Evan Carter, Texas Rangers (AA)
There is legitimate buzz for Carter as a top-10 prospect in all of baseball. I don’t have him there quite yet (#12 in my April update), but he could be as high as top-5 by mid season both on merit and as the result of graduations. It’s not out of the question that we see Carter roaming the outfield in Arlington before the end of the year as the Rangers remain competitive in the AL West.
Hitters hit. Carter is a hitter. He has a career .286/.416/.466 line that I anticipate will only improve as he gets to more power in games. He’s already tallied 33% of his 2022 home run total in just 23 games, so we’re seeing it materialize before our eyes. In 116 PAs this year, Carter has a .926 OPS with 25 walks to 20 strikeouts, 4 home runs, and 4 stolen bases. He plays up in OBP and points formats.
OF 3: Nolan Jones, Colorado Rockies (AAA)
PCL alert! Jones is a fine prospect, but I’d be cautious over-investing in him based on his start this year. He’s clubbed 9 home runs in 128 plate appearances in 2023, but the PCL is home to 3 of the top 5 parks for home run park factors as well as 6 of the top 10. There’s a reason some teams avoid sending their top pitching prospects to pitch there.
Jones is my #188 overall prospect. He’s struggled with Ks against more advanced competition in the past, but there’s some hope he could be a productive big leaguer aided by the friendly conditions at Coors Field.