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General | Professional | 12/4/2020

2020 PG Alum Debuts: NL West

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Ryan Weathers (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
 
C Joey Bart (Giants)
 
Bart was a regular at PG tournaments during his days at Buford (Ga.) High School, playing in almost 25 events with the East Cobb Yankees and finishing his high school days as the 120th ranked player in the 2015 class.  He was a “power/power” prospect as a catcher, with a very strong arm and an equally strong right-handed bat to go with a chiseled 6-foot-1, 215 pound build.
 
A polished performer as a teenager, Bart started for Georgia Tech as a freshman and hit .299 but only hit one home run and drew only eight walks in 43 games.  He quickly grew into his power and plate discipline, however, and by the time he was a junior, Bart was considered one of the top hitters in the college game regardless of position.  He hit .359-16-38 with 41 walks as a junior while showing solid big league tools and skills on defense.  Auburn right-hander Casey Mize was a clear number one overall pick in 2018 but Bart wasn’t far behind in the discussions and the Giants picked him second overall, signing him to a $7,025,000 bonus.
 
With his mature build and mature skills on both sides of the ball, most people expected Bart’s minor league apprenticeship to be a short one and it was.  The Giants called him up after 130 minor league games between 2018 and 2019, only 22 above the A level.  He hit .233-0-7 in 33 games and looked more comfortable initially defensively rather than offensively.
 
*C Luis Campusano (Padres)
 
Campusano’s father, Genaro, played five minor league seasons as a first baseman/catcher for the Pirates after signing out of the Dominican Republic in 1988 and so it hasn’t been surprising that his son has always been an advanced talent, just not physically but in his skills defensively as well.  Campusano stood out for both his combination of defensive quickness and athleticism and for his right-handed power potential at the plate at the 2016 PG National Showcase and was selected to play in the 2016 Perfect Game All-American Classic.
 
A very strong senior year at Cross Creek HS in Augusta, Georgia raised Campusano’s draft stock, even as a high school catcher, and he entered the 2017 draft as the second-ranked catcher and 34th overall prospect in the PG class rankings.  The Padres picked Campusano with the 39th overall pick near the top of the second round and signed him out of a South Carolina scholarship for a $1.3M bonus. 
 
Campusano has hit from his first day as a professional and posted .325-15-81 numbers, with a 52:57 walk to strikeout ratio in 110 games as a 20-year old in High A in 2019.  Given his age and relative lack of experience, it was something of a surprise then when Campusano was called up in early September for an emergency start.  He certainly made the most of it, hitting a home run in what is thus far his only Major League game.
 
*LHP Ryan Weathers (Padres)
 
Weathers is the son of 19-year big league right-hander David Weathers, who currently ranks 19th on the all-time games pitched list with 964 career appearances.  He was an all-around athletic standout in high school, excelling as a two-way player on the baseball field, including going 19-0 with a 0.10 ERA his last two seasons at Loretto High School in Tennessee, along with helping to lead Loretto to a state basketball title.  He pitched in the 2017 PG All-American Classic and regularly worked in the 91-94 mph range with an advanced curveball and change up.
 
This scout’s primary memory of Weathers is that I never saw him allow a run in probably 20 innings of work against some of the top players in the country at major events.  His raw stuff and his ability to throw any pitch at any time in the count was simply outstanding.  It would be interesting, given his dominance in high school baseball, to find out just how many runs Weathers had allowed in his career before the Padres bought him out of a Vanderbilt scholarship as the 7th pick in the 2018 draft with a $5,226,500 bonus.
 
Weathers only full season in the minor leagues thus far was solid, as he struck out 90 hitters in 96 innings in Low A while only walking 18 hitters.  Without any real scouting information coming out of team’s taxi squad camps, it was thus pretty surprising when Weathers, without an official inning above Low A, was placed on the Padres playoff roster and pitched an inning and pitched a scoreless inning and a third against the Dodgers in the NLDS.  Weathers became the sixth player in history, and the third in the crazy 2020 season, to make his Major League debut in the playoffs.
 
1B Pavin Smith (Diamondbacks)
 
Smith was the type of left/left athlete in high school that if he’d thrown right-handed, he would have probably been a shortstop.  The Jupiter, Florida, native was smooth and athletic in all his actions and was even up to 91 mph off the mound.  Smith had a sweet swing that didn’t have much present power but projected very well.  He ended up his high school career as the 137th player and fourth ranked first baseman in the 2014 class.  The Rockies took a 32nd round flier on him in the draft but Smith moved on to Virginia.
 
Smith quickly established himself as one of the top hitters in college baseball, hitting over .300 every year with increasing power and outstanding plate discipline (he had a 38:12 walk to strikeout ratio as a junior).  Scouts still had questions about Smith’s power even though he hit .342-13-77 as a junior but his plus bat and plus defense and polished overall game made him the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft.  The Diamondbacks gave him a $5,016,300 bonus.
 
Smith’s pro career has essentially been more of the same since signing:  He hit .291-12-67 with 29 doubles and a 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio in AA in 2019 while expanding his defensive resume with 41 games at the corner outfield positions.  Indeed, when Arizona called him up in mid-September for a 13-game cameo to close the season, Smith played as many games in the outfield as he did at first base, hitting .270-1-4.
 
Potential 2021 Debuts
 
1B Seth Beer (Diamondbacks)
 
It seems as if Beer has been around the prospect world for a long time and it might surprise you that he’ll play all of 2021 at 24-years old.  He was physically developed at a young age and was ranked highly in the 2015 high school class years before that class became seniors.  He played at the 2014 PG National Showcase and was a big performer at WWBA tournaments, being named to 10 All-Tournament teams, many for the Georgia Roadrunners, and picking up a championship ring as a member of the Evoshield Canes at the 2015 WWBA World Championships.
 
However, Beer skipped his senior high school season to enter Clemson early and quickly become one of college baseball’s top sluggers, hitting .369-18-70 with 62 walks when he should have been playing at Lambert High School back in Georgia.  He went on to hit 56 career home runs at Clemson, although he was increasingly pitched around as a sophomore and junior.  The Astros picked him with the 28th overall pick in the 2018 draft and signed him for a $2,250,000 bonus.
 
After a fast start in the Astros organization, Beer, now a primary first baseman, was traded to Arizona as part of the Zach Greinke trade in 2019.  He posted .289-26-103 numbers between the two organizations, mostly in AA.  Pavin Smith (see above) was higher on the Diamondbacks pecking order last year for first basemen and got a call-up, but Beer could easily see big league time in 2021, especially if the National League adopts the Designated Hitter.
 
*LHP MacKenzie Gore (Padres)
 
Gore was a very good prospect prior to his senior year at tiny Whiteville HS in North Carolina.  He’d led Whiteville to two state championships, gone 12-1, 0.08 with 173 strikeouts in 88 innings as a junior and pitched in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.  He’d put in one of the gutsiest performances this scout had seen in a long time, throwing six innings in scorching mid-day 115 degree Arizona heat at the 2016 PG World Series.  But at that point he still wasn’t a sure-fire first round pick for 2017 and a scholarship to East Carolina was still in play.
 
That all changed in his senior spring.  Gore’s raw stuff shot up from 88-91 mph to 93-96 mph and his full repertoire of off-speed pitches all picked up quality at the same time.  It was some of the most dominant stuff that veteran scouts had ever seen on a high school left-hander and his draft stock rose accordingly, with the Padres eventually selecting Gore third overall in the 2017 draft and signing him for a $6.7M bonus.
 
Gore battled some minor injuries in 2018 but was in peak form in 2019, going 9-2, 1.69 between High A and AA, striking out 135 hitters in 100 innings while allowing only 56 hits.  In a normal baseball world, there is little doubt that a healthy 21-year old Gore would have made his big league debut in 2020, especially with the Padres in playoff contention.  He is considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in baseball today and that debut will likely happen sooner rather than later this coming season.
 
OF Heliot Ramos (Giants)
 
A native of Puerto Rico, Ramos interestingly made his Perfect Game debut at the 2015 Spring Top Prospect Showcase in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  He stood out there with his 6.7 speed as a 15-year old along with present right-handed bat speed and strong throwing arm.  He later went on to play at the 2015 PG Junior National Showcase and the 2016 PG National Showcase, continuing to improve his tools and skills from event to event.
 
Ramos enjoyed a big 2017 spring in Puerto Rico and entered the 2017 draft as one of the top speed/power outfielders in the class. Perfect Game had him ranked 19th overall in the high school class.  The Giants liked him the most, picking him with the 19th overall pick and signed him to a $3,101,700 bonus.  Ramos had been committed to Florida International.
 
Very young for the class, Ramos debuted by hitting .348-6-27 as a 17-year old in the Arizona Summer League.  He made it to AA as a teenager for 25 games in 2019 and had clearly established himself as the Giants top centerfield prospect.  With San Francisco looking to get younger and more athletic across the diamond, Ramos fits it perfectly with their short and long-term plans.
 
LHP Ryan Rolison (Rockies)
 
Rolison was one of those high school left-handers that you just knew was going to keep getting better and better as he physically matured.  As a sophomore, the Tennessee native worked mostly in the low-80s and weighed about 170 pounds.  During the spring of his junior season, he was more 84-87 mph and by the summer before his senior season, he was more consistently in the upper-80s and touching 91 mph, as he did at the 2015 PG National Showcase.  Rolison also always had a curveball and a change up as major weapons in his arsenal to go with a loose and clean arm action.  Rolison had a strong commitment to Mississippi, where he would be a draft eligible sophomore, and resisted draft offers in 2016 before the Padres made him a 37th round pick.
 
Rolison continued to get stronger in college and his stuff continued to improve.  He had an impressive Cape Cod League season after his freshman year, going 4-0, 1.93 in six starts, before going 10-4, 3.70 with 120 strikeouts in 97 innings as a sophomore.  The Rockies picked him with the 22nd overall pick and signed him with a $2,912,300 bonus.
 
Rolison split his only full season in 2019 between Low A and High A and would have certainly reached at least AA as a 22-year old in 2020.  With good command and a solid three-pitch arsenal, he should contend for a starting job in the ever-needy Colorado rotation sometime this coming summer.
 
*SS Ryan Vilade (Rockies)
 
Vilade was one of the more polished hitters in the 2017 high school class, with a strong 6-foot-2, 190 pound build and a pure right-handed swing.  He was very impressive at the 2016 PG National Showcase and his report read as follows:
 
Tall, athletic well-proportioned build, has present strength with plenty of room for more. Right-handed hitter, open spread stance, has lots of strength and leverage in his swing, fires his lower half well and creates easy bat speed, swing will get long at times but hand quickness makes it work for him, ball comes off the barrel hard, works the middle of the field to the pull side, flashes lift when he extends through contact. 6.77 runner, has good hands in the field defensively and a quick and easy transfer, tends to throw cross body, solid raw arm strength, can see him ending up at third base in the future. Very good student, verbal commitment to Oklahoma State, where his father, James, is an assistant coach.
 
Vilade was selected to play in the 2016 PG All-American Classic and was ranked 36th in the final class rankings.  He was picked in the second round by the Rockies with the 48th overall pick, who convinced Vilade not to play for his father at Oklahoma State with a $1,425,400 bonus.
 
Vilade took a step by step rise up the Rockies minor league ladder his first three years as a pro, hitting .303-12-71 as a 20-year old in High A in 2019 and beginning a defensive transition from shortstop to third base, where he was projected back in high school.  Now 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, Vilade was reportedly one of the most impressive hitters in the Rockies taxi squad camp last summer.  His short-term future in Colorado is obviously tied to Nolan Arenado but he appears to be the Rockies third baseman of the future and maybe the near future.

 

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