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Zac Beck's Prospect Team of the Month(May 2023)
Zac Beck writes up the top prospects from each position from the month of May.
Two months of full-season Minor League ball is in the books, and I’ll be honest — that doesn’t leave enough left for my liking. It is, however, enough to begin drawing conclusions from. Sample sizes are becoming meaningful to the degree that any in-season sample can. Let’s look back at May and the standout performances it brought us.
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 on my latest update. The rest is up to the players. Those who performed the best in May made the cut. Better luck in June for those that missed.
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Let’s get to the prospect team of the month!
HM: Colt Keith, Detroit Tigers (AA)
I put my finger on the scale just a smidge to place Dezenzo on the team of the month. Keith had a higher OPS than Dezenzo (1.107 vs. 1.075) in a less hitter-friendly home park (Erie had a home run park factor of 77 in 2022 as compared to Asheville’s 145), but struck out in 6% more of his plate appearances.
Keith’s May line of .374/.437/.670 was punctuated by a 6/6 night at the dish on the 16th, in which he clocked two home runs, a triple, a double, and two singles. A cycle and a side of fries. At some point, you wonder when he’s a better option at third than Nick Maton.
SP: Julian Aguiar, Cincinnati Reds (A+)
Count it: two consecutive months with a Cincinnati Redstocking on the bump! Last month featured Andrew Abbott, who set the Double-A Southern League on fire en route to a 1.74 ERA with an 18.7 K/9 (43 strikeouts in 20.2 innings).
This month was all Aguiar. He was tremendous, racking up strikeouts at a 30.9% rate and limiting free passes with a walk rate of 6.7%. He carried a swstr% of 13.8% while tossing 22.0 innings of 0.41 ERA ball.
Aguiar was notably absent from Baseball America’s preseason top-30, but he’ll be there when update time rolls around. He has a full arsenal led by a fastball that sits 95 mph and tops out at 97 mph and he deviates his offerings based on the batters’ handedness. There are at least 5 distinct pitches he’ll go to, including a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider, a curveball, and a change-up. It’s an impressive array of viable offerings with good overall control.
C: Thayron Liranzo, Los Angeles Dodgers (A)
Another young Dodgers catcher. They grow’em on trees out there, I suppose. It would have to be a pretty big tree, given Liranzo’s 6-foot-3, 195 lb frame at just 19 years old.
Liranzo slashed .277/.400/.614/1.014 in May. Those of you who paid attention in math class know that comes out to a .337 ISO. Thump will never be a question for him and it comes in spades from both sides of the plate (.584 SLG as a righty, .548 from the left). The glaring hole in his game is the hit tool. He’s running a sub-60% contact rate for the year and had a 27% K-rate in May, but he is in arguably the best development organization in baseball. There’s optimism his bat-to-ball could improve over time.
All said, he’s probably worth a flier in any league that rosters more than 250 prospects.
1B: Tyler Locklear, Seattle Mariners (A+)
This is a message for Jerry DiPoto: get Tyler Locklear out of Everett!
I’m as much of a Locklear fan as anybody, and I’ll admit it’s hard to go as crazy as I’d like to while he remains at High-A. Everett is a notorious hitter’s park (give Funko Field a quick search on Google Images – you’ll see what I mean). Even still, Locklear made the most of it. His May line of .323/.445/.615 was among the best in the minors, and it came with a 23.5%/14.3% K/BB.
Obligatory Locklear dinger. If you know, you know!
2B: Jared Serna, New York Yankees (A)
Yes, he’s a 21-year-old at Single-A (as of today, happy birthday, Jared!) but that’s the team of the month for you. Performance reigns supreme. His May was spectacular (.305/.345/.600), and there is some intrigue with Serna in deep leagues.
He makes elite zone contact (>90%) and has encouraging pop for his 5-foot-6 frame. He’s running a 14.9% K-rate over 181 plate appearances this year.
3B: Zach Dezenzo, Houston Astros (A+/AA)
The Astros’ scouting and development is on another level. Dezenzo was a 12th-round selection out of the Big Ten and has been one of the best hitters in minor league baseball this year. Plenty of that production came at Asheville, but he’s since been promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi and hasn’t slowed (albeit in a minuscule sample).
Dezenzo’s May was a smidge worse than his overall line, which is extraordinarily difficult to do when your line was .421/.483/.592/1.075. He has effortless plus power but a below-average hit tool. A larger sample in Double-A should be revealing. Keep your eyes on Dezenzo – he could go nuclear.
SS: Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds (AAA)
There’s nothing I can tell you about Elly De La Cruz that you don’t already know. He was the 14th-best hitter in minor league baseball by OPS in May. He accomplished a feat no team in Statcast history has by putting three balls in play over 116 mph in a single game. He’s unbelievable and appears to be showing growth in plate discipline (I write as he notched his 5th strikeout tonight, but I digress).
He’s my #1 overall prospect. I’ll hear arguments for Jackson Holliday, but that’s about it.
OF 1: Colton Cowser, Baltimore Orioles (AAA)
I was a Colton Cowser truther when he was drafted 5th overall out of Sam Houston State in the 2021 Amateur Draft. That’s not a victory lap – no such thing in baseball – because I wasn’t putting out written content or ranks at the time. It feels good to see him mashing like this, regardless.
His May line reads .400/.525/.667/1.192 in 59 PAs. He spent some time on the IL with a quad injury, but he’s due to return the day this article goes live. Once healthy, Cowser will be a Baltimore Oriole in short order. Take it up with Mike Elias if he isn’t.
OF 2: Justin Dirden, Houston Astros (AAA)
At this point, Dirden is a pretty known entity in prospect circles, and the issues that plagued him at AAA last year continue to haunt him this year. That’s not to say he isn’t productive, but a 28.2% K-rate at the level last year has ballooned to 30.5% this year. It’s unclear whether he’ll ever be a productive big leaguer.
Pre-season he clocked in as my 51st outfield prospect, and I can’t say he’s still there today. He had a hell of a May, though, hacking his way to a .341/.381/.624/1.005 line with five home runs in 97 plate appearances.
OF 3: Moises Gomez, St. Louis Cardinals (AAA)
Gomez is yet another outfielder getting it done with exorbitant K-rates. His 28.4% figure was slightly better than Dirden, and he’s younger by about a year, both of which are immaterial to me. There’s no room for him in the St. Louis outfield.
He managed to compile a .294/.328/.697/1.025 quadruple slash (not sure if that’s a thing, but we’re going for it) by slugging twelve (that’s a one followed immediately by two) home runs in May. His biggest wart is a chase rate north of 40% which may keep him from ever being a productive piece on a major league club.