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Minors  | General  | 11/27/2023

PG Down on the Farm: AL East

David Rawnsley     
PG DOWN ON THE FARM
 
It’s the time of the year again (i.e. the off-season) for the annual PG Down on the Farm feature.  We identify a top prospect in each of the 30 Major League organizations with as much Perfect Game background as possible and delve into that PG history for some insight into his development as a prospect.  Some of them might be high profile, high draft pick, ex-PG All-American talents who fans have been long familiar with.  Others might be more obscure prospects who have significantly improved either in college or as professionals.

The idea isn’t to necessarily pick the best PG background prospect in each organization but the one who might be closest to the big leagues.  Sometimes that is the same player, other times not.



And there is plenty of variation among organizations in their quantity and quality of prospects, whether it be those with PG backgrounds or not.  There are multiple Baltimore Orioles prospects that would be easy choices to profile this year.  The annual struggle to identify a Houston Astros prospect is just that.  We’ve listed the last two year’s profile choices, along with a quick summary of how last year’s prospect performed in 2023.  We’re proud to note that both of last year’s ROY picks, the Diamondbacks Corbin Carroll and the Orioles Gunner Henderson, were profiled in 2022 and 2021 respectively.

The profiles will be organized by League/Division and run on the following schedule.

American League East  (November 27)
American League Central  (November 29)
American League West  (December 1)
National League East  (December 4)
National League Central  (December 6)
National League West  (December  8)


American League East


Baltimore Orioles  --  3B Coby Mayo

High School:  Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, Parkland, Fla.
Travel Team:  Elite Squad
Final PG Class Ranking:  19
Drafted:  2020, 4th round, Baltimore Orioles
Highest 2023 Level:  AAA
2024 Age:  22

It would be easy to put the Orioles Jackson Holliday in this slot as the 2022 first overall pick and the consensus top prospect in the game today.  All Holiday did in 2023 was hit .323-12-75/.941 OPS with 24 steals and 101 walks while reaching AAA as a 19-year old.

That Mayo earns this spot is a testament to the Orioles incredible middle infield talent and depth.  They finished the season, of course, with Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson and fellow first year standout Jordan Westburg in their starting infield.  In most organizations, 2B Connor Norby would be a top infield prospect after hitting .290-21-92 with 40 doubles in AAA as a 23-year old in 2023.  With the Orioles, that just puts him on the trading block.

Mayo split his time in 2023 between AA and AAA, hitting a combined .290-29-99/.974 with 45 doubles and 93 walks.  An extra big and strong athlete at 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, Mayo played 102 games at third base in 2023 but also played 28 games at first base as the Orioles developed his future versatility.

The right-handed hitting Mayo has always had a dominant bat, having hit .389-13-50 in two plus years at national powerhouse Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and performing even better on the travel circuit, including hitting .467-2-26/1.276 OPS in 34 games during his junior summer while walking 25 times versus only 10 strikeouts.

Mayo played in the 2019 Perfect Game National Showcase and was named to play in the 2019 PG All-American Classic.  His report was as follows:

Tall well-proportioned build with excellent present strength. Right-handed hitter, hits from a crouched stance loaded heavily onto his back side, set up is not dissimilar from Jeff Bagwell's, uncoils hard with lots of lower half torque, creates outstanding leverage and strength through the ball. Patient hitter who picks his pitches and sees the ball, has always preformed at a very high level at PG events. Elite level raw power that plays in games. Prototype third base tools on defense, big raw arm strength, 4.51 runner home to first base.

Mayo’s senior season was cut short after eight games (.455-2-6), making his 2019 performances even more important.  The Orioles saved significant money in their first four picks over the top three rounds and signed Mayo out of a Florida scholarship for a well over slot $1,775,000 bonus in the fourth round.


2022 Featured PG Player:  RHP Grayson Rodriguez

2023 Update:  Rodriguez made his MLB debut on April 5 but was later sent back to AAA, where he made eight dominant starts (4-0, 1.96) before rejoining the Orioles starting rotation.  He was outstanding in the second half of the season, going 7-4, 4.35 overall in 122 innings and giving the Orioles a potential home grown future Ace.

2021 Featured PG Player:  IF Gunnar Henderson

 

Boston Red Sox  --  2B Nick Yorke

High School:  Archbishop Mitty HS, San Jose, Calif.
Final PG Class Ranking:  75
Drafted:  2020, 1st Round, Boston Red Sox (17th overall)
Highest 2023 Level:  AA
2024 Age:  22

When the Red Sox selected a high school second baseman, Nick Yorke, out of a Silicon Valley high school with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 draft and signed him to a $2.7M contract, it was one of the most surprising first round draft decisions in memory.  Yorke had hardly caused a ripple on the 2019 summer scouting circuit and, of course, the pandemic shut down high school baseball for almost all of the 2020 spring, pretty much eliminating any meaningful additional scouting.  What did the Red Sox know that everyone else seemed to have missed?

The most important factor is that Yorke had dominated the Bay Area’s top high school league since his freshman year and was very well known to local and regional scouts.  He hit .370 as a freshman, then was named the league MVP as a sophomore after hitting .494.-2-22 with 18 doubles, then topped that by hitting .505-7-40 as a junior.  However, Yorke was forced to DH his entire junior year after undergoing off-season surgery to repair his right labrum.  That inability to throw significantly impacted his 2019 summer.

In fact, Yorke only participated in one Perfect Game event, the 2019 National Showcase and he impressed with his obvious elite tool, his bat.  His report read: 

Strong athletic build, pretty mature physically. Right-handed hitter, hits from an even stance with loose and relaxed hands in his set up, tension free swing with big bat speed, ball comes off his barrel hard and loud, balanced and under control and most often on time, natural hitter with the strength to drive the ball, chance to be an elite level hitter. 7.00 runner, has quick feet in the infield and a compact arm action, stays balanced well and gets rid of the ball quickly, recovering from shoulder problems and not throwing at full strength yet. Verbal commitment to Arizona.

Yorke would have seemed to have been the perfect player to have ended up going to college, got healthy and proved his first round abilities, except that the Red Sox already saw that and acted immediately in what was at best a flawed draft to begin with.  Yorke immediately proved the Red Sox knew what they were talking about, hitting .325-14-62/.928 OPS as a 19-year old in his first full pro season.

Yorke spent the entire 2023 season in AA, playing exclusively at second base and only making six errors in 96 games while hitting .268-13-61/.785 with 25 doubles and 18 steals.  He profiles as the Red Sox second baseman of the future, although that future might be another year down the road.

A secondary benefit of the Red Sox selecting and signing Yorke in the first round is that they were able to draft and sign another high school bat, Blaze Jordan, in the third round (Boston didn’t have a second round pick) and sign him for a well over slot $1,870,000 bonus.  Ironically, Jordan was one of the best known and most highly scouted high school talents in the 2020 class, the polar opposite of Yorke.


2022 Featured PG Player:  IF Matthew Lugo

2023 Update:   Lugo was solid in the 2022-23 Puerto Rican Winter League (.275-6-19 in 39 games) but struggled with hard contact at AA (.242--6-37) and playing mostly third base and left field instead of his former middle infield.

2021 Featured PG Player: 1B Triston Casas



New York Yankees  --  OF Spencer Jones

High School:  La Costa Canyon HS, Carlsbad, Calif.
College:  Vanderbilt
Travel Team:  Blackhawks National/Phenom Signature
Final PG Class Ranking:  31
Drafted:  2022, 1st round, New York Yankees (25th overall)
Highest 2023 Level:  AA
2024 Age:  23

 The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Jones is probably tired of being compared to the Yankees 2022 MVP Aaron Judge.  Yes, there are plenty of similarities, even beyond being of similar size and both playing for the Yankees.  Both were late first round picks (Jones, 25th overall, Judge 32nd) after playing three years of college, both are from California (Jones from Carlsbad, Judge from Fresno) and both showed the same relative over the fence power as 22-year olds in A ball (Jones 16 home runs, Judge 17).

But the rest of the background wouldn’t be much different.  Judge was a three-sport star who was relatively unrecognized out of high school.  Jones was actually as much of a primary left-handed pitcher who was on the national prospect lists as early as his freshman year.

Jones was very active as a young teen in Perfect Game events, winning the MVP at the 2015 PG 14U World Series and already standing 6-foot-5, 180-pounds.  He earned his first PG 10 grade at the 2016 PG Underclass All-American Games and pretty much defined projectability on both sides of the ball.  He was always listed as a primary left-handed pitcher but actually performed much better as an outfielder/first baseman both in high school and during the summer/fall.  Over 98 games at LaCosta Canyon High School, Jones hit .367 but only hit 3 home runs.  On the mound, strikes were an issue as Jones walked 26 hitters in his 18 high school innings.

Jones made a huge leap on the mound at the 2018 PG National Showcase working up to 93 mph with is fastball with a hammer upper 70s curveball and plenty of strikes.  He was named to the PG All-American Classic team as a pitcher and was 91-94 in his inning on the mound at his hometown Petco Park.  That was the peak of Jones’ pitching career, as he suffered an elbow fracture that led to 2019 surgery and later had TJ surgery as a freshman at Vanderbilt in 2020.

A strong Cape Cod League season in 2021 (.312-3-18 in 25 games), ironically with the same Brewster team that Judge played for a decade previously, put Jones on the prospect map again as an outfielder and he followed that up with an outstanding junior season with Vanderbilt, hitting .370-12-60 with 21 doubles and 14 stolen bases.  The Yankees selected Jones with the 25th overall pick and signed him for a $2,880,800 bonus.
 

2022 Featured PG Player:  C Austin Wells

2023 Update:  Wells continued to hit with power in the upper minors, posting .240-17-72 numbers in 96 minor league games in 2023 before a September 1 big league call-up.  As the Yankees regular catcher over the last three weeks, Wells hit .229-4-13.

2021 Featured PG Player:  SS Anthony Volpe

 

Tampa Bay Rays  --  SS Carson Williams

High School:  Torrey Pines HS, San Diego, Calif.
Travel Team:  GBG Navy
Final PG Class Ranking:  53
Drafted:  2021, 1st round, Tampa Bay Rays (28th overall)
Highest 2023 Level:  AAA
2024 Age:  21

Williams is considered a Top 30 prospect by most baseball publications and is part of the Rays huge middle infield talent base.  He reached AAA as a 20-year old in 2023 while hitting .258-23-81/.853 OPS while stealing 20 bases and making only 7 errors in 110 games at shortstop, the only position he’s played as a professional.  The only flaw in Williams’ game now is his swing/miss tendencies, as he fanned 158 times over the season at a 32% rate.  Even that was a slight improvement from 2022.

A San Diego native, Williams never participated was a perfect 4-4 in All-Tournament honors, the first being as a 5-foot-5, 111-pound 13-year old in 2017.

His biggest event that really brought his name into national attention was the 2020 WWBA World Championships, which was held in Fort Myers, Florida, instead of Jupiter due to the pandemic.  Playing for GBG Navy, Williams was named the event’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .417-0-10 with 8 runs scored, throwing three scoreless innings on the mound during pool play and going 3-4 with a pair of runs and steals in the championship game win over Power Baseball.  Williams actually played second base the entire event in deference to Davis Diaz, now Vanderbilt’s starting shortstop and a potential high 2024 draft.  Wiliams’ offensive numbers spoke for themselves, as did his plus speed and arm strength, but many scouts thought just as highly of him as a right-handed pitcher, even through the next spring.  Williams worked in the 91-94 mph during his WWBA outing to go with an 84 mph slider and was a strike thrower.

High School players in Southern California, even with Williams’ tools, rarely put-up video game numbers due to the overall balance of competition in the area but that’s exactly what Williams did during his senior spring, hitting .495-11-35 with 34 stolen bases in 31 games.  He also went 2-0, 0.00 with 4 saves in 8 games on the mound, striking out 26 hitters versus 3 walks in 15 innings and regularly topping out in the mid-90s.

2021 was a historical year for high school shortstops, as eight were selected among the top 28 picks.  Williams was the last of the eight, going 28th overall to the Rays and signing for a $2,347,500 bonus.  He had been signed to play at California.


2022 Featured PG Player:  RHP Taj Bradley

2023 Update:  Bradley bounced between AAA and the big leagues all of 2023 but managed to throw 104 innings in Tampa, going 5-8, 5.59.  His stuff and peripheral numbers were outstanding at times but he was badly hurt by 23 home runs allowed.

2021 Featured PG Player:  2B Xavier Edwards

 

Toronto Blue Jays  --  LHP Ricky Tiedemann

High School:  Lakewood HS, Lakewood, Calif.
College:  Golden West CC
Travel Team:  CBA Marucci           
Final PG Class Ranking:  79
Drafted:  2021, 3rd round, Toronto Blue Jays
Highest 2023 Level:  AAA
2024 Age:  21

Tiedemann has risen in a short time from being an under appreciated teenager from Southern California to the second-best left-handed pitching in the game according to the MLB.com rankings, which have him 31st overall and behind only the Giants Kyle Harrison among southpaws.

That under appreciation was probably initially caused how young Tiedemann was for the 2020 class, as he didn’t turn 18 years old until two months after the draft.  Tiedemann has also undergone huge changes in his body over the last four to five years.  He was initially listed at 6-foot, 140-pounds at his initial Perfect Game events in 2018.  At the 2019 Perfect Game National Showcase, Tiedemann was a long and strong 6-foot-3, 192-pounds.  He’s now listed at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds and is still only 21-years old.

The 2019 version of Tiedemann was solid but hardly predicted what would come only a few years later.  He worked in the upper 80’s from a busy, multi-part delivery that has remained part of his package to this day.  Here is his report from the National Showcase:

Rick Tiedemann is a 2020 LHP with a 6-3 192 lb. frame from Norwalk, CA who attends Lakewood. Square shouldered high waisted build with plenty of physical projection remaining. Big side step to start his delivery with a big leg lift as well, gets tall over the rubber in his gather, short and compact arm action with a 3/4's arm slot, not always consistent in his direction and landing spot. Fastball topped out at 89 mph, more there with physical maturity, gets running life down in the zone. Sweeping break to a mid-70's slurve type breaking ball, gets some fade on a change up with somewhat slower arm speed. Projects well in all areas, key to development will be in becoming more consistent in all aspects of his mechanics. Verbal commitment to San Diego State.

Tiedemann got far more positive attention from scouts at the 2019 WWBA World Championships when he struck out five hitters in three innings while topping out at 91 mph with a much improved upper 70’s curveball.

2020 cost Tiedemann his senior season, of course, and after initially committing to San Diego State he switched first to Long Beach CC then to Golden West College.  Increasingly firm stuff, plus perhaps more appreciation for Tiedemann’s young age and physical ceiling, made him the Blue Jays third round pick (91st overall) and earned him a $644,800 signing bonus.  Interestingly, with the next pick the Yankees selected high school senior left-hander Brock Selvidge and gave him a $1.5M bonus.  Selvidge is only 10 days younger than Tiedemann.

Since making his pro debut in 2022, Tiedemann has thrown only 122 innings due to a couple of minor injuries and the Blue Jays caution with his development.  He’s struck out 199 hitters in those 122 innings while allowing only 70 hits.  His fastball now works in the mid to upper 90’s to go with one of the best change ups in minor league baseball and a plus slider that has the luxury to be his third best pitch.
 

2022 Featured PG Player:  IF Addison Barger

2023 Update:   An early season elbow injury limited Barger to 94 games, including 88 in AAA but also robbed the left-handed hitter of his power, as he saw his home runs drop from 26 in 2022 to 9 in 2023 and his slugging drop from .555 to .392.

2021 Featured PG Player:  IF Jordan Groshans