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Minors  | General  | 12/1/2023

PG Down on the Farm: AL West

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 West


Houston Astros  --   RHP Spencer Arrighetti

High School:  Cinco Ranch HS, Katy, Texas
Colleges:  Texas Christian, Navarro College, Louisiana-Lafayette
Travel Team:  Texas Twelve
Final PG Class Ranking:  441
Drafted:   2021, 6th round, Houston Astros
Highest 2023 Level:  AAA
2024 Age:  24

One Astros prospect who stands out happens to be their top minor league pitching prospect, Spencer Arrighetti.  Arrighetti went to high school right down the road from Houston in Katy, Texas.  He threw locally for the Texas Twelve travel team and threw his biggest PG event, the 2017 WWBA World Championships, for the Ohio Warhawks.  As a teenager, Arrighetti generally threw in the upper 80’s, touching 91 mph occasionally, to go with a mid-70’s breaking ball and an upper 70’s change up.  He was ranked 441st in the final 2018 class rankings and went undrafted. 

Arrighetti’s college career got off to a slow start, as he threw only 17 innings (2-0, 9.00) at TCU as a freshman and then spent the pandemic year at Navarro (TX) College.  He got his opportunity in his third year at Louisiana-Lafayette, going 7-6, 3.12 in 13 starts and 83 innings, striking out 91 hitters versus only 29 walks.  His velocity was up to the 91-94 mph by this point and the Astros selected him in the sixth round in 2021 and signed him for a $147,500 bonus.

Arrighetti’s velocity has ticked up another notch in the Astros system, as he’s now topping out at 97 mph to go with a much-improved slider in the mid-80s that has helped him strike out 293 hitters in 231 innings across the 2022-23 seasons.  Arrighetti’s ability to limit walks (114 over that period) may push him to more of a bullpen role in the future but he remains the top arm currently in the Astros system.


2022 Featured PG Player:  OF Colin Barber

2023 Update:   Injuries continue to hamper Barber, as he played in “only” 79 games in 2023, all at AA, while hitting .244-11-40/.792 OPS.  The 79 games is actually his career high, as the now 23 year old Barber has only played in 189 regular season games since signing in 2019.

2021 Featured PG Player:  3B Joseph Perez

 

Los Angeles Angels  --  1B Nolan Schanuel

High School:  Park Vista HS, Lake Worth, Fla.
College:  Florida Atlantic
Travel Team:  FTB Rockets
Final PG Class Ranking:  95
Drafted:   2023, 1st round, Los Angeles Angels, 11th overall
Highest 2023 Level:  MLB
2024 Age:  22

Schaunel’s 2023 season was close to unprecedented in the past generation of baseball, at least since teams stopped bringing recently drafted players straight to the big leagues, or close to it.  The Angels 2023 first round pick out of Florida Atlantic, who signed for a $5,253,000 bonus as the 11th overall pick, played in only 22 minor league games, 17 of those in AA, before being called up to Los Angeles and playing the last 29 games for the Angels, hitting .275-1-6/.732 OPA.  He retains his rookie status for the 2024 season.

The left-handed hitter’s 2023 college season was close to unprecedented as well, as he hit .447-19-64/1.483 while collecting 71 walks and 18 HBP’s versus only 14 strikeouts on the season.  While Conference USA is not the SEC or the ACC, that level of dominance is rarely seen at the Division One level regardless of who one plays for.  Schaunel’s dominance level wasn’t a complete surprise, as he hit .343-11-56/1.020 as a freshman in 2021 and improved on that as a junior.

Was Schanuel’s hitting ability predictable from his extensive work as a regular on the Perfect Game circuit during his high school days?  That kind of hitting ability is never really predictable but one could certainly see signs of it in Schaunel’s track record.  Coming out of his freshman year in 2017 and playing for the Florida Stealth 2020, Schaunel hit .625, .650 and .579 at his first three tournaments, the latter two being the national level 15U BCS Championship and the WWBA 15U National Championship.  Overall that summer, Schaunel hit .515-0-18 in 30 games in PG play with 20 walks and only 7 strikeouts.

Two years later, Schaunel played at the 2019 PG National Showcase.  He was listed at 6-foot-3, 195-pounds, as opposed to his present 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, and was a primary outfielder who ran a 6.94 sixty and threw 93 mph from the outfield in drills.  His report from that National read:

Nolan Schanuel is a 2020 OF/RHP/1B with a 6-3 195 lb. frame from Boynton Beach, FL who attends Park Vista Community. Outstanding athletic build, has present strength with room for more. 6.94 runner, has loose athletic actions in the outfield and comes through the ball well, quick transfer and release, carries his momentum through the ball with a full arm action, lots of arm strength and carry, polished outfield actions. Left-handed hitter, hits from a high hand load with a long one-piece swing and a big shift into contact, has some bat speed and can impact the ball when on time, hit the ball well in games with a middle of the field approach, plenty of power there to develop. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Florida Atlantic.

Schaunel obviously lost most of his 2020 senior high school season to the pandemic but his final PG class ranking, 96th overall, indicates that he was likely to have some draft interest, although he wasn’t drafted. 

Trivia note:  Schaunel’s full name is Nolan Ryan Schanuel.

 
2022 Featured PG Player:  RHP Landon Marceaux

2023 Update:   Marceaux went in AA for the Angles (3-6, 4.88 in 75 innings) before being included in the Eduardo Escobar trade with the New York Mets.

2021 Featured PG Player:  IF Jeremiah Jackson
 


Oakland A’s  --  RHP Joe Boyle

High School:  North Oldham HS, Goshen, Kent.
College:  Notre Dame
Travel Team:  St. Louis Pirates
Final PG Class Ranking:  54
Drafted:   2020, 5th round, Cincinnati Reds
Highest 2023 Level:  MLB
2024 Age:  24

For the serious prospect fan, there was perhaps no more surprising set of numbers in 2023 than the fact that Oakland A’s right hander Joe Boyle walked only five hitters over his first three big league starts spanning 16 innings.

This is the same Joe Boyle who could hardly get on the mound at Notre Dame from 2018-2020 because he walked 48 hitters in his 36 innings over three years.  Or walked 173 hitters in 204 innings in his first two-plus minor league seasons with the Reds before being traded to Oakland for southpaw Sam Moll late in the 2023 season.

Boyle, who grew up in suburban St. Louis before moving to Kentucky for his senior year, has always had a special arm.  This scout first saw him as a 15-year old sophomore at the 2015 PG National Indoor Showcase and filed the following report:

Joe Boyle is a 2017 RHP/1B with a 6-5 200 lb. frame from O'Fallon, MO who attends Ft. Zumwalt West HS. Very nice pitcher's build, has very good strength for his age with plenty of room to get stronger. Drifting delivery with a quick and compact arm action, high 3/4's arm slot, mechanics came together after about 20 pitches and he repeated well for his age, can really get downhill well when delivery is in sync. Fastball topped out at 88 mph, plenty more in there, gets nice run and sink down in the zone. Curveball showed good depth and occasional big sweeping action at times, potential quality second pitch. Tends to grip change up too hard and bury it, pitch still developing. High ceiling young right hander with a bright future. Earned an invitation to the PG National Underclass Showcase based on his performance. Has gained 7 mph since last summer. Good student.

Boyle kept growing both physically and with his stuff and eventually pitched at the 2016 PG National Showcase and earned a spot at the 2016 PG All-American Classic, where he topped out at 96 mph just a couple of days before his 17th birthday.

Boyle’s body and stuff kept growing at Notre Dame but that may have been part of the issue.  Now listed at 6-foot-7, 240-pounds and regularly touching triple digits, Boyle couldn’t repeat his delivery and therefore couldn’t get on the mound.  Scouts never give up on that type of physical/stuff package and Boyle had shown signs of improvement in the pandemic shortened 2020 season, picking up two early saves and only walking 13 hitters in 12 2/3’s innings during early season play.  The Reds picked him in the fifth and final round of that draft and signed him for a $500,000 bonus.

Boyle’s pure stuff overwhelmed young hitters immediately in professional ball, even as he struggled to keep his walks under one per inning.  In 2022 between High A and AA, Boyle threw 100 innings, allowing only 46 hits and striking out 153 hitters and kept his walk total down to 84 free passes.  The hit/inning ratio understandably increased as Boyle faced AA hitters at the start of 2023, but the walk/strikeout numbers remained the same.

After the trade to Oakland there was an immediate change.  Boyle threw 33 minor league innings after the trade, half of them in AAA, and only walked 18 hitters versus 20 walks and 46 strikeouts.  Then duplicated that performance in the big leagues.

Small sample size?  Unquestionably.  But as a 6-foot-7 pitcher who sits in the upper 90’s with a plus slider, Boyle doesn’t have to be perfect.  If he can keep pitching to his new ratios and consistently throw into the sixth inning, he becomes a top pitching prospect and an immediate member of the Oakland rotation.  And potentially a really fun success story for the 2024 season.

 
2022 Featured PG Player:  C/1B Tyler Soderstrom

2023 Update:  Soderstrom continued to rake in AAA to start 2023 (.252-21-61 in 77 games) but struggled on in his big league debut, hitting .160-3-7 in 45 games and spending as much time at first base as behind the plate.

2021 Featured PG Player:  SS-2B Nick Allen

 

Seattle Mariners  --  MIF Ryan Bliss

High School:  Troup County HS, LaGrange, Ga.
College:  Auburn
Travel Team:  East Cobb Yankees
Final PG Class Ranking:  96
Drafted:   2021, 2nd round, Arizona Diamondbacks
Highest 2023 Level:  AAA
2024 Age:  24

Bliss played in over PG events from 2014-2018, including tournaments for the East Cobb Astros, Georgia Bombers and East Cobb Yankees and in numerous showcases, including the 2016 Junior National (where he earned his first PG 10 grade), the 2016 PG All-American Underclass Games and the 2017 National Showcase.  His PG National report read:

Ryan Bliss is a 2018 SS/2B with a 5-9 165 lb. frame from Lagrange, GA who attends Troup County HS. Compact athletic build, some present strength with room for more. Calm and simple approach at the plate, has quick hands, seems to always be on time to barrel the ball up, very consistent, has some juice in his barrel and swings hard, has gap power, hands really work well in his swing, hits the ball to all fields. 6.60 runner, 3.27 on a steal. Has smooth actions in the middle infield, very good on the move with balanced footwork and a quick release, best actions at second base but can play shortstop as well. Can really play the game and plays happy. Excellent student, verbal commitment to Auburn.

A couple of things stand out about that report.  First was that no one thought Bliss was actually 5-foot-9, he’s been listed at 5-foot-6 ever since but that’s what he was listed at back then.  More importantly was the balance of his offensive tools, speed and defensive ability, with no real weakness in his game.  Most importantly, perhaps, was the way Bliss played the game, which was with skill, energy and happiness.  Most PG scouts will remember him for these last traits.

The Red Sox spent a 30th round pick on Bliss out of high school but he ended up at Auburn and started all 66 games as a freshman.  Bliss’ bat blossomed as a junior, as he hit .365-15-45/1.082 OPS and he was selected in the second round (42nd overall) by the Diamondbacks and signed for a $1,250,000 bonus.

Bliss struggled offensively in his High A debut in 2022, hitting .214-10-37/.641 but at least reopened his running game, which had gone dormant at Auburn, stealing 31 bases while playing far more shortstop than second base defensively. 
2023 dawned completely different, as Bliss dominated AA from opening day, hitting .358-12-47 and stealing 30 bases in 68 games before being promoted to AAA.  Bliss was part of the trade package for closer Paul Sewald on July 31st and moved over to the Mariners AAA affiliate.  Overall, Bliss hit .304-23-86/.902 OPS with 55 stolen bases on the season.  While Bliss was playing almost exclusively at second base in Arizona in deference to top prospect Jordan Lawlar, he played almost all shortstop while with the Mariners.


2022 Featured PG Player:  RHP Emerson Hancock

2023 Update:   Hancock was solid in 20 starts in AA (11-5, 4.32, 107 K’s in 98 innings) and picked up three short big league starts as well (0-0, 4.50, 12 innings) to get a taste of a big league pennant race.  He’s a major part of the Mariners deep stock pile of young pitching talent.

2021 Featured PG Player:  OF Zach DeLoach

 

Texas Rangers  --  OF Evan Carter

High School:  Elizabethton HS, Johnson City, Kent.
Travel Team:  DRB Elite
Final PG Class Ranking:  500
Drafted:   2020, 2nd round, Texas Rangers
Highest 2023 Level:  MLB
2024 Age:  21

Carter’s huge roll in September and October in helping lead his Texas Rangers to a World Series championship as an untested 20-year old was as unexpected as the Rangers championship itself.  After hitting .306-5-12/.1.058 in his 23 regular season debut, Carter ended up hitting .300-1-6/.917 in 17 playoff games, even hitting clean-up in the Rangers final game.

In a 2024 perspective, Carter will enter the season as heavy a favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year as Corbin Carroll was in 2023 as the presumptive NL honoree after his late 2022 excellence. 

But when Carter was selected in the second round of the 2020 draft (50th overall) and signed out of a Duke scholarship for a $1,250,000 bonus, there were plenty of people in the baseball draft business who had no idea who Carter was.  Since he was ranked 500 on the final Perfect Game rankings and wasn’t ranked or mentioned in most, if not all, other publications draft listings, it’s pretty easy to see that the Rangers scouting department aced everyone in the game in their work on Carter.

Carter played in 12 PG tournaments from 2017 to 2019, all in the Southeast and many of them major events that are heavily scouted.  He played at the 2019 WWBA World Championships, the 2019 WWBA National Championships, the 2018 BCS National Championship, the 2018 WWBA National Championship and the 2017 WWBA 15U National Championship.  Carter picked up eight All-Tournament mentions, many of them two-way as both a pitcher and hitter, in his 12 overall tournaments.  He was usually listed at 6-foot-3, 170-pounds, later at 6-foot-4, 190-pounds, threw in the mid-80’s off the mound and often had more triples than doubles on his hitting line.

So we’re talking about a player who was very exposed by all standards, he played in the big events and performed.  And had a Duke scholarship to show for it.  But going into his senior year at Elizabethton (pop. 14,000) High School, Carter was a career .324 high school hitter with four career home runs and threw in the mid-80’s.  And his high school season was cancelled three games into his senior season by the pandemic.

If you root for the underdog and for great scouting, you have to be a huge fan of Evan Carter and the Texas Rangers.  Finding the hidden player/unappreciated talent can still happen even today.


2022 Featured PG Player:  RHP Owen White

2023 Update:   White started 24 games between AA and AAA, going 4-5, 4.22 in 108 innings with 55 walks and only 80 strikeouts.  He did get two relief appearances in Texas, allowing five runs in four innings and picking up a loss.

2021 Featured PG Player:  RHP Cole Winn