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Minors  | General  | 12/2/2022

PG Down on the Farm: AL West

David Rawnsley     
Photo: Tyler Soderstrom (Perfect Game)
The minor leagues have gone through huge changes over the past few years, from the canceled 2020 season to the complete realignment of leagues and teams as Major League Baseball essentially took over operations.  More on-the-ground changes will continue to happen as minor league players will become unionized for the first time and as Major League Baseball continues to use the minor leagues as a testing ground for potential rule changes.

The bones of player development remain the same, though, and following the top prospects as they progress from their days in high school and being evaluated at Perfect Game showcases and tournaments to the minor leagues and on to being Big League standouts remains unchanged.  Over the next two weeks, we’ll be looking at one top prospect per organization, while updating the prospect we highlighted in the same series last year.  This year’s schedule is as follows:

American League East: November 28
American League Central: November 30
American League West: 
December 2
National League East: 
December 5
National League Central: 
December 7
National League West: 
December 9

Houston Astros  --  OF Colin Barber

High School:  Pleasant Valley HS, Chico, Calif.
Travel Team:  SY Titans
Final PG Class Ranking:  176
Drafted:   2019, Houston, 4th round
Highest 2022 Level:  High A
2023 Age:  22

Since 2016, the Astros have received virtually no help from the draft with the exception of shortstop Jeremy Pena.  The organization has made huge cuts in their amateur scouting operations over that time, replacing traditional area scouts with video personnel and an increased emphasis on analytics.  They are by a significant margin the most difficult organization from which to select a former PG player/prospect to highlight.

Barber was at the 2018 PG National Showcase and impressed there, showing high-level center field tools and plenty of offensive potential.  His report from that event reads as follows:

Medium athletic build with good present strength and room for more. 6.51 runner, works through the ball aggressively in the outfield with athletic actions, gets on top of his throws and creates good carry, centerfield tools. Left-handed hitter, hits from a spread open stance, has very quick hands with a short line drive swing, works to all fields with a high contact approach, can get some jump off the barrel when on time. Projects well in all areas. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Oregon.

Barber had a dominant senior season, hitting .493-10-42 but was generally seen as destined for Oregon.  The Astros drafted him in the fourth round, however, and signed him to a well-over-slot $1M bonus.

After a solid debut after signing in 2019, Barber and the rest of the minor leagues missed the 2020 season and Barber missed almost all of 2021 after surgery on his right (non-throwing) labrum.  He returned midway through the 2022 season and was outstanding, hitting .298-7-33/.839 in High A and showing tools across the board.  He’ll likely start the 2023 season in AA and play the entire season at 22 years old.  With the Astros lack of upper-level outfield prospects and their current revolving door in center field, a good full season from Barber could put him on the doorstep of the World Champions' lineup. 

2021 Featured PG Player:
  3B Joseph Perez

2022 Update:  Perez missed almost two months of the season with an oblique injury but managed to make his Big League debut early in the season, striking out in his only plate appearance.  He hit .290-7-37 in 83 games overall, mostly in AA.

Los Angeles Angels  --  RHP Landon Marceaux

High School:  Destrehan HS, Destrehan, La.
College:  Louisiana State
Travel Team:  Evoshield Canes
Final PG Class Ranking:  50
Drafted:   2021, Los Angeles Angels, 3rd round
Highest 2022 Level:  AA
2023 Age:  23

Marceaux seems like he’s been around forever despite the fact that he’ll pitch all of 2023 at 23 years old.  His extreme polish and maturity on the mound made him a standout in the spring and on the summer travel circuit at a young age. 

His most notable PG event was probably the 2017 WWBA 17U National Championship, where Marceaux was named the Most Valuable Pitcher while throwing for the Canes 17U team, winning two starts and striking out 17 hitters in 8 innings.  He also pitched at the 2017 PG National Showcase and generated this report.

Medium athletic build, high waist, plenty of room to get stronger. Standard delivery with a high 3/4's arm slot, athletic actions and repeats his mechanics well, gets on top of the ball very consistently, has maturity to his mechanics. Fastball topped out at 92 mph with good downhill plane, power his fastball downhill effectively. Very good curveball with hard spin and biting action, swing and miss pitch. Has some feel for his change up with occasional run and fade. Polished pitcher with three present pitches and the ability to command them. Verbal commitment to Louisiana State.

Marceaux’s go-to pitch was definitely his curveball, a pitch that he got on top of exceptionally well, creating sharp biting 12/6 downer action.  That pitch can be hard to command, but that has never been a problem for Marceaux at any level.  There was talk that Marceaux had turned down a $1.5M bonus offer prior to the draft.  His strong commitment to LSU dropped him to the 37th round (Yankees), however.

Marceaux continued to do what he had always done during three seasons as a starter at LSU, including going 7-7, with a 2.54 ERA with 116 strikeouts and only 26 walks in 102 innings as a junior.  The Angels, as part of their “All Pitcher” draft in 2021, picked Marceaux in the third round and signed him to a $767,800 bonus.

In 2022, Marceaux, to no one’s surprise, continued to do what he has always done, throw strikes and get outs, going 4-6, with a 2.98 ERA with 73 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 90 innings across 18 starts while reaching AA late in the season.  He still projects as a back-of-the-rotation type starter but he has such a high floor and the Angels have such deep and long-seeded pitching needs that it seems only a matter of time before Marceaux gets his opportunity.

2021 Featured PG Player:  INF Jeremiah Jackson

2022 Update:  Jackson missed six weeks early in the season with an oblique injury and never really got rolling, hitting .215-14-44 in 87 games in AA.  He played more second base than shortstop and also mixed in some third base and left field.

Oakland A’s  --  C/1B Tyler Soderstrom

High School:  Turlock HS, Turlock, Calif.
Travel Team:  NorCal Baseball
Final PG Class Ranking:  14
Drafted:   2020, Oakland, 1st round (26th overall)
Highest 2022 Level:  AAA
2023 Age:  21

Soderstrom comes from a baseball family, although with a completely different tool set than his hard-throwing father, Steve, who was the sixth pick in the 1993 draft (Giants) as a right-handed pitcher from Fresno State.  Soderstrom’s best tool has always been his left-handed bat, which he combines with a patient approach and outstanding bat speed even at a young age.  He was one of the top hitters in the 2020 class and hit .414 in PG tournament play in 2019 and played in the 2019 PG All-American Classic.

Scouts were not as high on Soderstrom’s long-term potential behind the plate on defense, though, which caused him to drop to the 26th overall pick, where the A’s signed him out of a UCLA scholarship for a $3.3M bonus.

Soderstrom missed a big chunk of his first full year with an oblique injury, but his offensive potential was obvious, as he hit .306-12-49 in 57 games in Low A.  He built on that in 2022, reaching AAA as a 20-year-old and hitting a combined .267-29-105/.825 OPS between three levels.

Defensively, Soderstrom split his time almost equally between catching and first base.  His bat has advanced him so quickly up the minor league ladder that it might be likely first base is his primary future position.  He’ll probably continue to play both positions for the time being, however, with the likelihood that he will start 2023 in AA.

2021 Featured PG Player:  SS-2B Nick Allen

2022 Update:  Allen got into 100 games with the A’s in 2022.  He split time between shortstop and second base and was brilliant defensively (1.6 defensive WAR) while struggling a bit at the plate with a (.547 OPS).

Seattle Mariners  --  RHP Emerson Hancock

High School:  Cairo HS, Cairo, Ga.
College:  Georgia
Travel Team:  Game On Stealth
Final PG Class Ranking:  119
Drafted:   2020, Seattle, 1st round (6th overall)
Highest 2022 Level:  AA
2023 Age:  24

Hancock was a very regular participant at PG tournaments up until the WWBA World Championships his junior year, showing a very steady velocity progression from being a 5-foot-9, 135-pound 13-year-old at the 2013 13U BCS Finals throwing in the mid-70s, to a 6-foot-4, 175-pound athlete throwing 90-92 at Jupiter.  Hancock didn’t pitch, however during the 2017 summer travel season, although he came back to go 10-1, with a 0.75 ERA with 125 strikeouts and only 8 walks in 65 innings during his senior high school season.  He was drafted in the 38th round by the Diamondbacks.

After struggling as a freshman starter in the SEC for Georgia (6-4, 5.10 ERA in 15 starts), Hancock blossomed as a sophomore, going 8-3, with a 1.99 ERA while posting an 18:97 walk-to-strikeout ratio.  He received plenty of talk as a potential first overall pick going into the 2020 season, which was canceled after Hancock made four starts (2-0, 3.75 ERA, 34 K’s in 24 innings). 

The primary knock on Hancock going into the draft was that his now mid- to upper-90s fastball and changeup were well ahead of his slider and curveball.  He ended up going sixth overall to the Mariners and signed for a $5.7M bonus.  It was the third straight time that the Mariners chose a college pitcher in the first round, following Logan Gilbert (Stetson) in 2018 and George Kirby (Elon) in 2019.

Hancock’s debut season in 2021 was a bit of a struggle, as he battled minor arm injuries the entire season and only threw 44 innings (3-1, 2.62 ERA) between High A and AA.  He was healthy for most of the 2022 season, throwing 98 innings in 21 starts while going 7-4, 3.75 ERA in AA. 

The Mariners are clearly in win-now mode and will likely have a very deep starting rotation going into the 2023 season, giving them the luxury of letting Hancock build up more healthy minor league innings and further polish his entire arsenal of pitches.  At some point he seems certain to join Gilbert and Kirby, already established Big Leaguers, as part of Seattle’s future rotation.

2021 Featured PG Player:  OF Zach DeLoach

2022 Update:  DeLoach virtually repeated his 2021 season, hitting .258-13-73 with 71 walks and a .778 OPS while spending the entire season in AA.

Texas Rangers  --  RHP Owen White

High School:  Jesse Carson HS, Mt. Ulla, N.C.
Travel Team:  South Charlotte Panthers
Final PG Class Ranking:  56
Drafted:   2018, Texas, 2nd round
Highest 2022 Level:  AA
2023 Age:  23

White was a standout three-sport athlete in high school, garnering college interest as a quarterback and also averaging 14.7 point/game in basketball as a senior.  He was a four-year starter on the baseball team at both pitcher and shortstop and hit .375-9-82 over his career.

That two-way ability on the baseball field stood out at Perfect Game tournaments as well.  White was named All-Tournament as both a pitcher and player at his two biggest 2017 events, the WWBA 17U National Championship and the WWBA World Championship, both playing for the South Charlotte Panthers.  White struck out 12 hitters over 7 innings between two outings on the mound and hit .500 at the 17Us and threw a complete game one-hitter with 13 strikeouts and no walks at Jupiter while hitting .375.  White generally worked in the 90-93 mph range that summer with a low-80s slider and a changeup.

White’s senior season was dominant as he went 10-1, with a 0.22 ERA while striking out 101 hitters versus 15 walks in 63 innings, bringing his four-year record to 32-9, 0.85 ERA.  It was easy to project that the lean 6-foot-3, 175-pound White would add velocity as he filled out and concentrated just on pitching and he had plenty of late first round talk before the draft.  He managed to last until the 55th overall pick, where the Rangers signed him out of a South Carolina scholarship with a $1.5M bonus.

Although White was drafted in 2018, he didn’t make his professional debut until 2021 and that was only for 35 innings, plus an additional 28 in the Arizona Fall League.  He didn’t pitch after signing in 2018 and hurt his elbow in spring training of 2019 and underwent TJ surgery.  Everyone missed the 2020 season, then White broke his pitching hand early in the 2021 season.

White made up for lost time in 2022, posting a 9-2 record, with a 3.59 ERA between High A and AA, striking out 104 hitters in 80 innings and only walking 23 hitters.  He worked with a fastball in the 92-96 mph range to go with a full assortment of secondary pitches, highlighted by a mid-80s slider.  A strong and healthy start to the 2023 season could leave White as the Rangers top pitching prospect.

2021 Featured PG Player:  RHP Cole Winn

2022 Update:  Winn battled control problems in 2022, going 9-8, with a 6.51 ERA in 28 starts in AAA and walking 87 hitters in 121 innings.  His raw stuff remains top notch.