MLB: Notable Assignments for AL Prospects

MLB: Notable Assignments for AL Prospects

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

MLB teams lie or exaggerate about their prospects through the media all the time, but they will tell us what they think of most players based on where they assign them to start the year. Sometimes a player is pushed higher or lower than expected based on other players within the organization who play the same position or because of the weather or conditions at one of their affiliates, but for the most part, these opening assignments can clue us in to how a team thinks a player will perform that season. 

As part of this exercise, I went through and fully updated the team top 20s for all 30 teams. If I don't mention a guy, it's because I don't think there's anything to analyze regarding their assignment. I released the National League version of this article last week.

Baltimore Orioles

Colton Cowser and John Rhodes to High-A — Like with Sal Frelick's High-A assignment in the Brewers organization, this is a very conservative assignment for Cowser, and his 37.5 K% may clue us in as to why he didn't get pushed to Double-A. Meanwhile, Rhodes, who is younger than Cowser, is walking more than he is striking out.

DL Hall on the Development List — His innings were going to have to be monitored this season anyway, so perhaps he is just working on his mechanics at extended spring training.

Kyle Stowers, and to a lesser extent, Jahmai Jones and Terrin Vavra look ready at Triple-A.

MLB teams lie or exaggerate about their prospects through the media all the time, but they will tell us what they think of most players based on where they assign them to start the year. Sometimes a player is pushed higher or lower than expected based on other players within the organization who play the same position or because of the weather or conditions at one of their affiliates, but for the most part, these opening assignments can clue us in to how a team thinks a player will perform that season. 

As part of this exercise, I went through and fully updated the team top 20s for all 30 teams. If I don't mention a guy, it's because I don't think there's anything to analyze regarding their assignment. I released the National League version of this article last week.

Baltimore Orioles

Colton Cowser and John Rhodes to High-A — Like with Sal Frelick's High-A assignment in the Brewers organization, this is a very conservative assignment for Cowser, and his 37.5 K% may clue us in as to why he didn't get pushed to Double-A. Meanwhile, Rhodes, who is younger than Cowser, is walking more than he is striking out.

DL Hall on the Development List — His innings were going to have to be monitored this season anyway, so perhaps he is just working on his mechanics at extended spring training.

Kyle Stowers, and to a lesser extent, Jahmai Jones and Terrin Vavra look ready at Triple-A. Kyle Bradish looks ready on the pitching side. With a team like Baltimore, we can expect young players to cycle through opportunities at the big-league level, so look for these reinforcements to be up in the coming months if they continue to perform.

Adley Rutschman (triceps), Heston Kjerstad (hamstring) and Yusniel Diaz (hamstring) are all on the injured list. My guess is that Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez get the call from Triple-A in mid-to-late May.

Kevin Smith was designated for assignment.

Boston Red Sox

Bryan Mata and Thaddeus Ward could return from Tommy John surgery in the second half of this season.

Nick Yorke to High-A — While he was excellent in 21 games at High-A last season, it makes sense to send him back there for at least a month or two, given his age and how crowded things are in the majors.

Alex Binelas, Ceddanne Rafaela, Matthew Lugo and Gilberto Jimenez are raking at High-A, David Hamilton is raking at Double-A. Boston definitely knew what they were doing in targeting Binelas and Hamilton from Milwaukee in the Hunter Renfroe trade. Rafaela will be debuting quite high on the top 400 update at the end of May. For now, I'd treat him like at least a top-150 prospect.

Chicago White Sox

Norge Vera is out until mid-to-late May with a lat strain.

Oscar Colas to High-A — This was a soft landing spot for Colas, who has been productive. However, consider that the Astros assigned fellow Cuban import Pedro Leon to Double-A last year, and Leon, who is now at Triple-A, is almost the same age as Colas.

Micker Adolfo was designated for assignment and remains in the organization.

Righty Johan Dominguez (26) and catcher Carlos Perez (25) are older than a typical prospect and they may be Quad-A producers, but they've been so strong in the early going that we could see them get a look later this season.

Cleveland Guardians

Cody Morris (shoulder), Tyler Freeman (shoulder), Nolan Jones (ankle), Ethan Hankins (TJS) all opened the year on the shelf.

Gavin Williams to High-A — Williams is a monster and has ace upside. He seems to be on the Cade Cavalli developmental path from last year, where he will rack up strikeouts while climbing three levels of the minors, finishing the year at Triple-A, poised for a 2023 big-league debut.

Gabriel Arias (SS, 3B, 2B) and Richie Palacios (2B, LF, CF) didn't break camp in the majors like Steven Kwan, but Arias got the call earlier this week as the 29th man for a doubleheader and both could be up for good at some point this summer.

I thought Konnor Pilkington and Tobias Myers would get the first chances if a rotation spot opened up with Morris out, but it might be Peyton Battenfield even though he isn't on the 40-man roster yet, just given how everyone has pitched and where they were assigned (Battenfield, Myers to Triple-A, Pilkington to the big-league bullpen).

Tanner Burns is healthy at Double-A and could be a fairly big riser on the next update.

Detroit Tigers

Riley Greene seems like he'll be out at least 6-to-7 more weeks.

Jackson Jobe is being brought along slowly at Low-A. He threw one inning in his lone appearance thus far. No value change here.

Gage Workman and Daniel Cabrera to Double-A — Workman (22) and Cabrera (23) are old enough to be at Double-A, but it was a sink or swim assignment for both of them, and so far they are drowning.

Parker Meadows has been a great story so far High-A, hitting four home runs in his first 12 games. However, given his age (22) and 0.29 BB/K, we should pump the brakes on our excitement until he gets the bump to Double-A and has success there.

Houston Astros

Colin Barber is healthy at High-A after an injury-plagued 2021 season.

Joe Perez, who was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, already got a taste of the majors, but he is back at Triple-A for now. He could be up and down this year, but I wouldn't expect him to have sustained success in the majors until at least 2023.

Alex Santos has some of the best stuff in the system, but he was sent back to Single-A to work on improving his command and control.

Peter Solomon could be a big-league rotation option this year. He's gone at least four innings in each of his two starts and is trending toward being added back to the top 400 at the end of May.

Jordan Brewer (24) is putting up crazy numbers at High-A Asheville. He has intriguing tools, but Asheville is a hitter's haven and he's several years older than the typical prospect at that level.

Kansas City Royals

I'm not sure why the Royals broke camp with Kyle Isbel in the majors if they never intended on playing him, but thankfully he was sent down to Triple-A this week. I'm still a believer in him long term, and I think he'll get his chance sometime this summer.

They really threw Erick Pena to the wolves with the assignment to Low-A. At 19, it's an age-appropriate level for him, but he's clearly not ready for that challenge.

Alec Marsh is healthy and has made two starts at Double-A. He could rejoin the top 400 prospect rankings if he keeps performing.

There have been calls for Nick Pratto to take over for the struggling Carlos Santana, but I think people are starting to realize that Vinnie Pasquantino is the only strong bet to produce out of that trio. Pasquantino has more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A, which is a key data point for 24-year-old slugger at that level. Meanwhile, Pratto has a 35.7 K%, and I stand by my assessment that he would flop if given a shot in the majors this season.

Jonathan Bowlan has thrown bullpen sessions but is months away from returning to game action. He was on track to be an easy top 100 overall prospect before needing Tommy John surgery last year.

Los Angels Angels

Ky Bush, Chase Silseth, Coleman Crow (broke out in the AFL) and Mason Erla are all under-the-radar pitching prospects and they are all having success in the Double-A rotation.

Sam Bachman is on the IL at Double-A with back spasms, but he has resumed throwing.

Jordyn Adams to High-A — This is his third year at this level, so any success he has should be taken with a grain of salt. That said, a 10.3 K% through seven games has caught my attention.

Jeremiah Jackson (unspecified) is on the IL at Double-A.

Jack Kochanowicz is out with an unspecified injury.

David Calabrese was not assigned to a full-season affiliate, so it seems safe to say he did not show significant improvements this spring.

Alexander Ramirez, D'Shawn Knowles and Werner Blakely are all high-variance prospects, but they're also all off to strong starts at Single-A.

Minnesota Twins

Keoni Cavaco is on the injured list at Single-A with an unspecified injury.

Jordan Balazovic is on the IL at Triple-A with a knee strain.

Marco Raya, who has been the top breakout pitching prospect for Minnesota through two starts, is on the IL at Low-A after getting his wisdom teeth taken out this week.

I would have expected Austin Martin (CF, SS, 2B) to get assigned to Triple-A this year, but he was sent back to Double-A. Check out my outlook on him on his player page for a full breakdown, but he is one of the most unusual prospects I've covered. So far his OBP skill and speed have been on full display.

Royce Lewis has only played shortstop at Triple-A, and while we know he can handle almost any other position on the field, it seems like the Twins are going to give him at least a couple months to stay in a rhythm at the plate and in the field before experimenting with him at other positions. He obviously won't be playing shortstop in the majors as long as Carlos Correa is healthy. This has been one of my favorite stories in the minors in the early going, and I really hope his breakout is legitimate. Lewis could be a top-15 prospect on the late-May update.

Jose Miranda has primarily played third base. His subpar defense is the reason he hasn't been given a shot in the majors.

Jhoan Duran and Josh Winder both made the big-league bullpen out of spring training. I still think Duran is the closer of the future, while Winder might end up being the team's No. 1 or No. 2 starter long term.

Misael Urbina is still in the Dominican Republic due to visa issues.

Ronny Henriquez is in extended spring training, and I'm guessing he is either hurt or working on his mechanics.

Raya, Cade Povich, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Emmanuel Rodriguez, Steven Hajjar are all off the top 400 at the moment, but they are all trending toward being added on the late-May update.

New York Yankees

Yoendrys Gomez is out after needing a non-TJ elbow surgery.

T.J. Sikkema is out with a lat injury.

Austin Wells, Trey Sweeney, Everson Pereira and Cooper Bowman are all at High-A. The one that is a little surprising is Wells, as he was the first rounder in the class prior to Sweeney/Bowman. Catching prospects move slower through the minors, and Wells' defense is subpar, but if the Yankees were big believers in where he was coming off a strong AFL performance, he'd be at Double-A. Pereira is off to a great start and could get the bump to Double-A with Wells in a month or so.

Clarke Schmidt has looked great in a multi-inning relief role in the majors and could be an option for the rotation if a spot opens up.

Deivi Garcia and Luis Gil are struggling mightily in the early going at Triple-A. Schmidt is back to being my preferred Yankees pitching prospect.

Oakland A's

Tyler Soderstrom is off to a slow start at High-A, but he's been playing in some brutal weather in the Midwest and he is from California. In general, if a guy at any level (Oneil Cruz comes to mind as well) is playing in the Midwest right now, don't worry about their stats. Those leagues really shouldn't start until May.

Zack Gelof and Ryan Cusick jumped over High-A with assignments to Double-A. Melissa Lockard of The Athletic mentioned on this week's Prospect Podcast that the A's don't see a big gap at all between Soderstrom and Gelof and they could be Matt Olson/Matt Chapman 2.0 at the infield corners (although they're not that caliber of defensive players). Gelof could be a big riser on the next update. Meanwhile Cusick continues to miss bats at a really high clip and might be the best pitching prospect in the organization.

Denzel Clarke (turns 22 in a week) is putting up crazy numbers at Single-A. He is a massive (roughly 6-foot-5, 240 pounds) power-hitting prospect and could use a challenge at a more age-appropriate level.

Mason Miller is on the injured list at Single-A with a scapula strain, but Melissa told me he was touching 100 mph this spring.

Seattle Mariners

Emerson Hancock is out with a lat injury after dealing with shoulder issues last season.

George Kirby doesn't have anything to prove at Double-A. I'd expect him to get a bump to Triple-A any week now.

Jonatan Clase is putting up impressive numbers at Single-A, but he is the type of speedster who can put up unrealistic numbers in the lower levels. He turns 20 in May and I'd like to see him challenged with a promotion to High-A this summer.

Tampa Bay Rays

Cole Wilcox and Colby White are recovering from Tommy John surgery. White will be removed from the top 400 on the next update.

Xavier Edwards is almost back in action at Double-A after opening the year on the IL with a shoulder injury.

Cooper Kinney is out after shoulder surgery and could miss the whole season.

Heriberto Hernandez is putting up huge numbers at High-A, but the strikeouts are a pretty big red flag.

Kyle Manzardo to High-A — This is an aggressive assignment by Rays standards, so they really believe in the bat and so far it looks like they are right. He could be a fast mover (by Rays standards).

Isaac Paredes is no longer a prospect, but he's looking great at the plate at Triple-A and should be treated like a top 100 prospect.

Texas Rangers

Justin Foscue was delayed with a back injury, but he's healthy now at Double-A.

Luisangel Acuna is on the IL at High-A with a hamstring strain.

Dustin Harris is striking out way more than I would have expected at Double-A. I expect him to settle into a groove, but it's something to monitor.

Zak Kent is on the IL at Double-A with a hamstring injury.

Ricky Vanasco was sent to High-A, where he has struggled with his command. It's possible he could be the Rangers' closer of the future if starting doesn't work out, as he is already on the 40-man roster.

Toronto Blue Jays

Jordan Groshans (oblique strain) is active at Single-A, in what amounts to a rehab assignment. He reportedly had a loud spring and I think he could finally tap into his raw power in games this year at Triple-A.

Otto Lopez is on the IL at Triple-A with an oblique injury.

CJ Van Eyk is recovering from September 2021 Tommy John surgery.

Gabriel Moreno is crushing Triple-A pitching and may force the issue for a promotion to the majors before Danny Jansen is healthy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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