Bernie on the Scene: Prospect Profiles to Start the New Year

Bernie on the Scene: Prospect Profiles to Start the New Year

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Happy New Year to each of you and yours. May this year be one of good health, peace and joy.

I will begin the New Year as I left off. I will profile players that you, my faithful readersm would like to learn more about. Thank you for your requests — please keep them coming. I'll keep at it all offseason as long as my readers have players they want me to profile.

Johan Rojas, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
6-1, 165 
Bats: Right
Age: 21

The Phillies signed Rojas out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. Amazingly, he signed for only $10,000, so he was a steal.

Rojas has progressed well in development, and his defensive ability, his superb arm strength and good speed could vault him to the big leagues. He has strength in his slight frame, but he may even gain more depth and power in the coming years. However, he is more of a defensive/stolen-base prospect than a hitter, at this point.

Rojas spent 2021 playing in Rookie League, Class-A and Class-A Advanced, a sign of the Phillies belief in his abilities. He hit a combined .262/.329/.417/.747 in 429 plate appearances across the three classifications. He hit 11 home runs, drove in 52 runs and stole 34 bases in 43 attempts, showing the speed and base-stealing ability the Phillies saw when they signed him.

The fact Rojas hit 11 home runs is very encouraging. He struck out only 77 times, which shows he can be trusted to be

Happy New Year to each of you and yours. May this year be one of good health, peace and joy.

I will begin the New Year as I left off. I will profile players that you, my faithful readersm would like to learn more about. Thank you for your requests — please keep them coming. I'll keep at it all offseason as long as my readers have players they want me to profile.

Johan Rojas, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
6-1, 165 
Bats: Right
Age: 21

The Phillies signed Rojas out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. Amazingly, he signed for only $10,000, so he was a steal.

Rojas has progressed well in development, and his defensive ability, his superb arm strength and good speed could vault him to the big leagues. He has strength in his slight frame, but he may even gain more depth and power in the coming years. However, he is more of a defensive/stolen-base prospect than a hitter, at this point.

Rojas spent 2021 playing in Rookie League, Class-A and Class-A Advanced, a sign of the Phillies belief in his abilities. He hit a combined .262/.329/.417/.747 in 429 plate appearances across the three classifications. He hit 11 home runs, drove in 52 runs and stole 34 bases in 43 attempts, showing the speed and base-stealing ability the Phillies saw when they signed him.

The fact Rojas hit 11 home runs is very encouraging. He struck out only 77 times, which shows he can be trusted to be a bit selective at the plate. But that said, he will improve with greater and earlier pitch recognition. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I see Rojas as a real sleeper. He can become a stolen-base threat and can assume the role as an everyday center fielder when he completes his development. He can be one to watch carefully for fantasy, as he could be in Philadelphia in 2023. 

Everson Pereira, OF, New York Yankees
6-0, 191
Bats: Right
Age: 20

The Yankees invested $1.5M in Venezuelan international free-agent Everson Pereira in 2017.

Pereira was seen more as a defensive wizard in the outfield than he was a hitter when he was first signed. However, he has shown some real promise and upside so far with a bat in his hand in his young career.

Pereira has excellent base-stealing quality speed, a strong arm and he's an outstanding defensive centerfielder. But, in 2021 he blossomed as a hitter. A good athlete, Pereira spent 2021 in Rookie Ball, Class-A, Class-A Advanced. He hit a combined .303/.398/.686/.1.084 with 20 home runs and 57 RBIs. He totaled 221 plate appearances, striking out 61 times. That's an issue.

Pereira has always been young for his classifications, and the Yankees have moved him along quickly, which may explain the high strikeout rate.

As he matures and adds weight and muscle, Pereira may profile as a more complete player than just as a defensive centerfielder. Facing bigger, stronger, older and more mature pitching so far in his career may be overwhelming. If Pereira continues on his path of improvement, his hitting may offer him an expansion of roles. In fact, he may be able to handle a corner outfield position with his strong arm, good defense and possible power in the future. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I always like good athletes, and I like them playing for strong teams like the Yankees. However, we have to see how quickly he moves in 2022. For now, keep your eye on him. I think he'll gain strength at over 200 pounds and hit with power.

Travis Swaggerty, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
5-11, 200
Bats: Left
Age: 24

Swaggerty was a first-round Pirates draft pick in 2018 out of the University of South Alabama. He received a $4.4M signing bonus from Pittsburgh. They have lots of money invested in him. He was the No. 10 player selected in that draft.

Swaggerty played last season at Triple-A Indianapolis until an injury cost him his season. Frankly, the Pirates have targeted him as a key component of their future. But I still have to wonder if his power potential will be realized?

His draft position and the money the Pirates invested in him keeps him in their windshield, but he simply hasn't produced the numbers they projected. Yet. Last year, Swaggerty hit .220/.333/.439/.772 in 48 plate appearances. He did hit nine home runs and he drove in 40 runs in those limited 48 plate appearances. He was disabled in June due to a shoulder injury that required surgery. In essence, his entire season was wasted.

Swaggerty is a good defensive outfielder. If he doesn't hit to his potential, he can probably stick in the outfield with his good speed, strong arm and overall good defensive ability. But if he hits, he will have earned his money. I question if he will hit consistently? Much of my concern comes from the shoulder injury. That's a huge issue going forward. I worry about shoulders.

Swaggerty had skipped Double-A and was sent directly to Triple-A in a Pirates effort to fast-track his development. It will be important for him to regroup, recover and reignite his career in the coming season. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I would hold off on Swaggerty for 2022 until we learn how he recovers from shoulder surgery. Will he make consistent contact with power? I'll pass for now.

Michael Busch, 2B/3B/1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
6-1, 210 
Bats: Left
Age: 24

The Dodgers signed Busch for $2,312,000 as the No. 31 player taken in the first round of the 2019 draft. Busch was signed out of University of North Carolina.

Busch is a very versatile infielder and perfect for the Dodgers future. I see him getting his chance perhaps as soon as this coming season. But as a utility guy at first. This past year, Busch played at Double-A Tulsa, where he hit .267/.386/.484/.870 with 20 homers and 67 RBI in 495 plate appearances. He struck out 129 times, but he also walked 70 times, which is outstanding. Busch has patience to spare at the plate. He is a wise, selective hitter. He is tough to fool, and he puts the bat on the ball or takes a walk.

With power increasing in his frame, Busch drives the ball off the barrel, using the entire field. He is such a good hitter, I think he can hit at the top of the order, get on base and score runs. But he isn't fast. He won't steal bases. He'll need good hitters surrounding him in the lineup to reach his upside.

Busch will likely play second base for the Dodgers, but his versatility offers the club the chance to move him around as needed — just the way the Dodgers do with several of their players. While he is a fringe quality defender, he can hit if given the chance. Scouting Grade: 45/50

Fantasy Relevance: I think Busch is a better player on the field than on our fantasy rosters. He won't bring much in fantasy categories if his power doesn't develop. Probably a marginal fantasy target at this point.

Luisangel Acuna, SS/2B, Texas Rangers
5-10, 181
Bats: Right
Age: 19

Luisangel Acuna is the younger brother of Braves All Star Ronald Acuna.

Acuna received a $425,000 signing bonus from the Rangers when he signed as an international free-agent out of Venezuela in 2018. Ronald received $100,000 when he signed.

The younger Acuna spent 2021 in Class-A, hitting .266/345/.404/.749 in 473 plate appearances. He hit 12 homers, drove in 74 runs and stole 44 bases in 55 attempts.

Can he match big brother in power and production? He may not reach the heights of Ronald, but he's got enough upside and potential to hold his own in any lineup. But probably not with Ronald's power. An aggressive hitter, Jose gets strength behind quick hands and good bat speed. But for a young player, he has good pitch recognition and patience. From what I have observed, he is trying too hard to power the ball. That results in strikeouts. He struck out 110 times at Class-A, which is an issue.

Not a great defender, Acuna profiles best to me as a second baseman rather than shortstop. If he hits, he plays. Because he won't be a Gold Glove caliber defender. He does have a strong arm and good range, but I see him concentrating more on offense and putting up big numbers with the bat than playing defense. That will be a challenge for his coaches. Scouting Grade: 50

Fantasy Relevance: I see Acuna having a good, solid and dependable hit tool. But I don't see much power in his future. Perhaps he can hit 18 to 22 homers a year, but anything more would be a surprise. That said, I think he will be under pressure to match his older brother's career. That translates to a problem for me.

HEADING HOME:

It is not a fluke that the NFL is playing to huge numbers. The NFL Christmas games on TV had better ratings than they have had in years. 

Baseball is not in the minds or on the lips of fans. And baseball had best wake up. "Out of sight, out of mind."

As every day passes, I get more and more upset and frustrated with the lack of understanding on the part of owners and players regarding the harm they are inflicting on their own game.

This Civil War has people turning away from baseball and finding other outlets.

The baseball offseason, usually a time for planning and getting excited about the coming season, has been totally ruined. The car has run out of gas. There isn't even a sputter. Nothing. Crickets. And don't these people involved in the game realize what they are doing?

I know, I know. I vent every week in this space. Bear with me. I'm in withdrawal.

Have a great first week of the New Year. Be kind to each other. Enjoy life. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

And thanks for reading my work. Please leave me suggestions of players you wish me to profile. I'll get to them all over the winter.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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