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General | Professional | 11/30/2020

2020 PG Alum Debuts: NL East

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Ian Anderson (Perfect Game)

The 2020 Major League season was obviously unique for any number of reasons.  One of the side effects of the expanded rosters, the taxi squads, the compacted schedule and the increased doubleheaders is what seemed like an exceptional number of Major League debuts, especially for what was only a 60-game schedule.  The lack of a 2020 minor league season also makes it very difficult to predict who might be in position to make their big league debuts in what everyone hopes is a “normal” 2021 season.
 
In this six-part feature, we will look at some prominent Perfect Game Alumni who did make their Major League debuts in 2020 and speculate on which Alumni will make the jump during the 2021 season.  The schedule will be broken down by division and as follows:
 
Monday, November 30:  National League East
Wednesday, December 2:  National League Central
Friday, December 4:  National League West
Monday, December 7:  American League East
Wednesday, December 9:  American League Central
Friday, December 11:  American League West

(* denotes Perfect Game All-American)
  
Notable 2020 Debuts
 
*RHP Ian Anderson (Braves)
 
Anderson, a native of New York, first appeared at a PG event the fall of his junior year but he left quite an immediate impression, working up to 91 mph to go with a power curveball at the WWBA Underclass World Championships and at the WWBA World Championships that October.  That got him an invite to the 2015 PG National Showcase, where he was 91-93 with a very advanced ability to pitch.  The Vanderbilt commit was an easy choice for the PG All-American Classic that summer.
 
Anderson’s stock continued to rise as a senior, as he sat in the mid-90s with the two potential plus secondary pitches in his curveball and a rapidly improving change up.  Perfect Game had him ranked fourth overall in the 2016 high school class and Anderson out-performed that, going third overall to the Atlanta Braves and signing for a well below slot $4M bonus.  That under slot bonus enabled the Braves to draft and sign numerous players for above slot amounts later in the draft.
 
The Braves moved Anderson quickly through their system but not quite as quickly as some of his young peers despite dominant numbers that included 451 strikeouts in 378 innings.  Perhaps due to that extra minor league seasoning, Anderson was completely ready when he got the call to Atlanta last August, going 3-2, 1.95 in six regular season starts and 2-0, 0.96 in four playoff starts.
 
3B Alec Bohm (Phillies)
 
Bohm attended high school in Omaha and was a well-known prospect nationally, ranked as the top prospect in Nebraska his senior year and 157th nationally.  At a listed 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, his best tool was, not surprisingly, his big power potential.  He received a PG 10 grade at the 2015 National Pre-Draft Showcase.
 
Two things happened in Bohm’s three years at Wichita State.  One is that he slimmed down and firmed up his body and is now listed at 218 pounds.  Secondly, he was able to shorten his long and strong swing considerably.  Bohm started from the beginning of his freshman year and steadily improved his entire time, going from 6 to 11 to 16 in home runs while also increasing his walks from nine as a freshman to 39 as a junior.  By draft time in 2018, Bohm was pretty much considered the best pure hitter in the college draft class and wen- third overall to the Phillies, signing for a $5.85M bonus.
 
Bohm’s rise through the minors followed the same pattern as his improvement at Wichita State.  He hit no home runs in 40 games in his debut in 2018 while adjusting to professional baseball, then came back with an outstanding 2019 season that saw him hit .305-21-80 with a .896 OPS over three levels.  Called up to the big leagues on August 13, Bohm quickly adjusted to the big leagues, hitting .338-4-23 in 44 games and finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
 
*LHP Braxton Garrett (Marlins)
 
Garrett established himself early in his high school career as one of the top pitching prospects in the class and dominated both in high school in Florence, Alabama and on the travel circuit playing for the East Cobb Astros.  He worked in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball but his best pitch was an upper-70s breaking ball that he had outstanding feel and command for and could shape as either a slider or a curveball.  Garrett was a 2015 PG All-American and was ranked seventh in the 2016 class entering the draft.  Seventh was exactly where Garrett was drafted, going to the Marlins at the top of the first round and signing out of a Vanderbilt scholarship for a bonus of just over $4M.
 
Garrett’s professional career got off to an unfortunate start, as he injured his elbow four games into his 2017 debut and missed all the rest of the 2017 and the entire 2018 season after undergoing TJ surgery.  He returned healthy as a 21-year old in 2019, going 6-7, 3.54 in 21 starts between High A and AA, striking out 119 hitters in 106 innings.  He made his big league debut in the midst of a mid-September pennant race, going 1-2 in a pair of starts for the playoff bound Marlins.
 
*OF Monte Harrison (Marlins)
 
Harrison is one of the best pure athletes to pass through Perfect Game over the years, a chiseled 6-foot-2, 195 pound three-sport standout who could have just as easily gone to Nebraska to play quarterback.  He was also an All-State basketball player in Missouri.  But with 6.6 speed, a 97 mph outfield throwing arm and big right-handed bat speed, Harrison was a baseball player first pretty much the entire time even though he was well behind most of his peers in repetitions, especially with the bat.
 
Harrison lasted until the 50th overall pick in 2014, where the Brewers selected him and paid him a $1.8M bonus to concentrate on baseball.  After a predictably slow start to his professional career, Harrison had his coming out year in 2017, hitting .272-21-67 with 27 steals in A ball and was one of the headliners in that off-season’s Christian Yelich trade. 
 
*OF Mickey Moniak (Phillies)
 
The 2016 draft class didn’t have an obvious top player or even a small group of top players.  The Phillies, picking first, chose speedy Southern California outfielder Moniak with the first overall pick and signed him for an under slot $6.1M bonus.
 
A 2015 PG All-American, Moniak's best tool, aside from his plus-plus speed, was his left-handed bat.  He performed very well at all the big showcase events and tournaments and promised plenty of left-handed power as he matured physically.  Some even talked about Moniak as a future batting champion.  He was ranked fifth overall in the final 2016 class rankings.
 
He enjoyed his first solid season as a 21-year old in AA in 2019, hitting .252-11-67 with 15 steals and 13 triples and a .741 OPS.  With few outfield prospects in their system, Philadelphia has been aggressive about promoting Moniak and he benefited from that in 2020, making a 14 at-bat debut in September.
 
*C Brian Navarreto (Marlins)
 
Navaretto was named a 2012 PG All-American based on an outstanding performance at the 2012 PG National where the Florida product really stood out with his athleticism and defense.  He was ranked as the 47th overall prospect in the 2013 class at draft time and was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round, signing instead of taking an offer from hometown Jacksonville U.
 
Navaretto played six plus years in the Twins minor league system, moving up to AA almost purely on the basis of his defense, as in three separate years he hit under .200 and hit only 24 home runs in seven seasons.  The Marlins signed him as a minor league free agent in December, 2020 and it proved to be the ticket for Navarreto, as he made a short 5 at-bat debut in the big leagues in August and even picked up a couple of hits.
 
*LHP David Peterson (Mets)
 
Peterson’s first Perfect Game event was the 2012 National Academic Showcase, where the even then 6-foot-6 Colorado native worked in the 84-87 mph range with his fastball while showing command of three solid secondary pitches.  One thing that stood out about the Colorado native from the beginning was how good an athlete he was, especially for his size.  He was a college prospect as a first baseman and had a deceptive delivery with a low ¾’s arm slot that he repeated exceptionally well.  Peterson’s stuff continued to develop over the next year and he was selected to play in the 2013 PG All-American Classic, where he topped out at 92 mph.
 
Peterson was ranked 54th in the class heading into the 2014 draft but as a strong student with a commitment to Oregon, he slid out of the top of the draft, eventually turning down a 28th round selection by the Red Sox.
 
After two passible seasons as a starter at Oregon, Peterson exploded as a junior going 11-4, 2.51 in 100 innings, with 140 strikeouts and only 15 walks, including a 20-strikeout game and a 17-strikeout game.  The Mets selected him with the 20th overall pick and signed him for a close to $3M bonus.  Just as he had done when he went to Oregon, Peterson’s first two full minor league seasons were passible but hardly what one hopes for in a mature first round college pitcher, including a 3-6, 4.19 season in AA in 2019.  But just like at Oregon, Peterson made the adjustments, going 6-2, 3.44 in his Mets big league debut and solidifying as spot in the rotation in 2021.
 
*LHP Trevor Rogers (Marlins)
 
Rogers may have been the most unlikely PG All-American in the Classic’s history.  A standout at home in New Mexico, Rogers rarely traveled out of the state and had never been seen by a Perfect Game scout, nor even many national level pro scouts, before the 2016 Area Code Games, a scant one week before the 2016 All-American Classic.  He was so impressive at that event, with an effortless delivery that produced a 93-95 mph fastball, that getting him to San Diego became an immediate priority.
 
Rogers senior year at Carlsbad High School was even better, as he inched into the upper-90s at times and was completely dominant, going 11-0, 0.33 that spring with 134 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 63 innings.  Perfect Game had him ranked fourth overall in the 2017 class heading into the draft and he lasted until the 13th overall pick and the Marlins, who signed him out of a Texas Tech scholarship for a $3.4M bonus.
 
Despite having only 210 minor league innings under his belt, the now 22-year old Rogers held his own in seven big league starts in his debut, going 1-2, 6.11 and flashing his potential with 39 strikeouts in only 28 innings.  He also made a brief relief appearance in the playoffs against Atlanta.
 

Potential 2021 Debuts
 
OF JJ Bleday (Marlins)
 
Bleday was a standout two-way player in high school and actually came to the 2015 PG National Showcase as a primary pitcher, working up to 87 mph on the mound with a mid-70s curveball being his best pitch.  The Padres ventured a 39th round pick on him in 2016.
 
By the time he reached Vanderbilt, however, he was a full-time outfielder and started almost immediately as a freshman.  It wasn’t until his junior year, after hitting only six home runs and 13 doubles his first two seasons, that the left-handed hitting Bleday discovered is power stroke.  Although he was definitely high on draft lists entering his junior spring in 2019, Bleday’s .347-27-72 breakout, to go with 14 doubles and 61 walks, pushed him to near the top of the first round.  The Marlins grabbed him with the fourth overall pick and signed him for a $6,670,000 bonus.
 
As a polished and experienced college performer, Bleday debuted in High A to start his career after signing and would have most likely started 2020 in AA had there been a season.  With the Marlins outfield situation in a constant state of flux, it would be no surprise to see the 23-year old Bleday make his big league debut in 2021 after getting some more minor league reps.
 
LHP Kyle Muller (Braves)
 
A good case could be made that Muller was the most dominant player in high school baseball as a senior at Jesuit High School in Dallas in 2016.  He went 9-1, 0.42 on the mound with 142 strikeouts in 83 innings, plus hit .393-15-52 while playing first base when not pitching.  Most importantly for his status as a prospect, Muller’s velocity picked up from the upper-80s he threw the summer before his junior year, including topping out at 90 mph at the 2015 PG National Showcase, to being steadily in the low-90s and touching higher at times.  Perfect Game had him ranked as the 22nd overall prospect in the class and the fourth best high school left-hander.
 
The Braves 2016 draft class has a chance to go down as one of the best collection of pitchers ever chosen in one year and Muller was their third pick after Ian Anderson (see above) and Joey Wentz (now with the Tigers), going 44th overall.  Muller had been set to attend Texas but signed for a $2.5M bonus.
 
Muller has continued his dominant performance record in the minors, reaching AA as a 20-year old and posting a career 20-10, 3.03 record in 67 minor league starts as his raw stuff has continue to improve.  Reports from Braves taxi squad camp last summer had Muller consistently working in the mid to upper-90s with his fastball having improved command.
 
*OF Drew Waters (Braves)

Waters appeared in his first PG event as an eighth grader and eventually played in close to 30 PG tournaments and showcases during his high school career at Etowah High School in Georgia and with 643 DP.  He was especially impressive at the 2016 PG National Showcase, standing out on defense with his plus throwing arm and 6.6 speed and offensively as a true switch-hitter with bat speed and power from both sides of the plate.  He played in the 2016 PG All-American Classic and was ranked 11th overall in the 2017 class heading into the 2017 draft.  Based on that ranking, the Braves got a steal when Waters fell to the 41st slot early in the second round.  Waters signed for a $1.5M bonus and passed on a Georgia scholarship.
 
Waters has shot upwards through the Braves system, splitting 2019 between AA and AAA as a 20-year old while hitting a combined .309-7-52 with 40 doubles and 16 steals.  With 22-year old superstar Ronald Acuna already established in Atlanta and 21-year old Christian Pache on the same path as Waters, the Braves are in a position to have one of the youngest and most athletically dynamic outfields in baseball set for a long time.

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