MLB: Notable Assignments for NL Prospects

MLB: Notable Assignments for NL 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 the 15 teams in the National League. If I don't mention a guy, it's because I don't think there's anything to analyze regarding their assignment. I'll be doing the American League version of this article next week.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Corbin Carroll to Double-A — This is a major vote of confidence for Carroll, who played just seven games at High-A last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He's my pick for the No. 1 overall prospect heading into next season, but it's possible he's just too good and forces a promotion this year.

Ryne Nelson to Triple-A, Drey Jameson/Brandon Pfaadt/Slade Cecconi to Double-A, Blake Walston

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 the 15 teams in the National League. If I don't mention a guy, it's because I don't think there's anything to analyze regarding their assignment. I'll be doing the American League version of this article next week.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Corbin Carroll to Double-A — This is a major vote of confidence for Carroll, who played just seven games at High-A last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He's my pick for the No. 1 overall prospect heading into next season, but it's possible he's just too good and forces a promotion this year.

Ryne Nelson to Triple-A, Drey Jameson/Brandon Pfaadt/Slade Cecconi to Double-A, Blake Walston to High-A — This is just a nice barometer for how far the top pitching prospects in this system are from the big leagues. Nelson has been excellent through two starts at Triple-A, and he's good enough to be valuable this year if/when he gets the call.

Corbin Martin in big-league bullpen — He's not a great prospect at this point, but Martin appears to be healthy and somewhat stretched out, throwing four innings with five strikeouts in his first appearance in long relief.

Atlanta Braves

Spencer Strider in big-league bullpen, Tucker Davidson/Bryce Elder in big-league rotation — Strider has excellent stuff, but I think he fits best in this piggyback role, where he can really lean on his fastball/slider combo. Davidson and Elder are true starters who could make names for themselves this season. Atlanta is currently operating with a six-man rotation due to a lack of off days, so it's possible Elder gets sent back to Triple-A in a week or two.

Kyle Muller to Triple-A — Muller appears to be seventh on the starting pitching depth chart as he works on his command and control in the minors.

Freddy Tarnok to Double-A — He excelled in eight starts at Double-A last year, but he's back there to start the year. This essentially tells us his promotion to the majors is not imminent.

Drew Waters on IL with hamstring injury, Braden Shewmake at Triple-A — If Atlanta has need of a legitimate hitting prospect from Triple-A this season, I think it could be Shewmake who gets the call later this summer. His surface stats weren't great at Double-A last year, but he is off to a good start at Triple-A and should be able to handle other positions besides shortstop.

Chicago Cubs

Kevin Alcantara and Jordan Nwogu were held back in extended spring training — Alcantara has joined Low-A and struck out six times in his first three games. Nowgu still hasn't been sent to an affiliate after struggling mightily last year at Low-A. 

Brailyn Marquez building up arm strength in extended spring training — On the one hand, Marquez would have had his innings monitored carefully this year anyway, but we're essentially working on two-plus years of him not operating on a traditional starter's schedule due to a variety of factors. I think he's a future reliever.

Ed Howard pushed to High-A — Part of the reason the Cubs pushed Howard to High-A is that there were shortstops coming behind him (Kevin Made will be the shortstop at Low-A once he's over an elbow injury). This could also be a sign from the team that they think Howard can handle this aggressive push after he struggled for much of the year at Low-A. So far he has more walks (four) than strikeouts (three) through five games.

Nelson Velazquez back at Double-A — Even after winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League, Velasquez was sent back to Double-A, a level he crushed (156 wRC+) in 34 games last year. This tells me that Chicago would like to see him continue working on his approach, which is quite flawed.

Alexander Canario at High-A — If the Cubs thought Canario had a chance to handle Double-A pitching, they would have pushed him, as he is on the 40-man roster and only has two option years remaining. The assignment back to High-A leads me to believe he's stagnated a bit.

Drew Gray needed TJS, Christian Franklin out for the season with knee injury — I thought Gray could have broken out this year, but that will have to wait. I wasn't high on Franklin, but he's a drop for me if you were holding him in a dynasty league.

Cincinnati Reds

Elly De La Cruz to High-A — I wouldn't have been surprised if the Reds sent Elly back to Low-A for six weeks or so, but they're pushing him. I said before the season he could be a top-10 prospect if he struck out at a 25% clip this season, so far he's striking out at a 45% clip (tiny sample).

Matt McLain to Double-A — Most of the other premium college hitters from this draft class were sent to High-A, so this is a big vote of confidence for McLain.

Rece Hinds to High-A — This is a bump in competition, given that Hinds played just 43 games at Low-A. He is being developed as an outfielder now in an effort to keep him healthy. A good athlete for his size (6-foot-4), Hinds has the tools to break out this year.

Allan Cerda to High-A — Not only is Cerda already on the 40-man roster, but he rocked a 136 wRC+ at High-A last year, so this is the Reds pumping the brakes a little. If they thought he could handle Double-A, that would have been the obvious assignment.

Austin Hendrick to Low-A — He played 63 games at Low-A last year, so sending him to High-A for his age-20/21 season would have been the obvious move, but the Reds clearly don't think he's up for the challenge. This is starting to look a little busty. 

Brandon Williamson, Graham Ashcraft at Triple-A — The next two pitching prospects the Reds will turn to are waiting in the wings.

Bryce Bonnin is rehabbing an undisclosed injury in extended spring training.

Rockies

Ezequiel Tovar to Double-A — This is a very aggressive assignment for a 20-year-old who struggled at High-A and in the AFL. If Tovar handles the assignment, his prospect stock will rebound.

Yanquiel Fernandez to Low-A — In one of the more boring farm systems in baseball, Fernandez has breakout potential. He is 19 and has monster power potential.

Dodgers

Diego Cartaya to Low-A — This was one of the more surprising assignments of them all, as Cartaya seemingly mastered Low-A last year. Perhaps the Dodgers didn't want to send him to Great Lakes while the weather is still brisk in the Midwest.

Bobby Miller to Double-A, Landon Knack in extended spring training — I thought Miller could get the bump to Triple-A, so this is a sign that they are not expecting him to help out in the majors anytime soon. Knack is building up in extended after reportedly dealing with a soft tissue injury, so neither of the Dodgers' top pitching prospects are on the fast track this year.

Michael Busch to Double-A — The Dodgers have a stacked Triple-A roster, but even so, Busch had a 134 wRC+ in a full season at Double-A last year. He should quickly force a bump up to Triple-A.

Eddys Leonard and Jorbit Vivas to High-A — When Busch gets bumped to Triple-A, one or both of Leonard or Vivas will likely get bumped to Double-A. They both already did very well at High-A last year, albeit when the weather was 30-40 degrees warmer than it is right now.

Gavin Stone at High-A — Another Dodger with a cautious assignment, Stone is already 23 and was dominant in five starts at High-A last year.

Jose Ramos at Low-A — Ramos is 21 and played 47 games at Low-A last year, so he should dominate in a return trip until he gets bumped up in a month or so.

Maddux Bruns at Low-A, Peter Heubeck in extended spring training — There has been a lot of buzz around Bruns over the past month or so, and the Dodgers will give him a chance to break out right away in full-season ball. Heubeck is either battling something or not ready for that assignment.

Marlins

Edward Cabrera is rehabbing at Low-A — Jupiter is in a better location for the Marlins to monitor as he comes back from a biceps injury. Durability has been an issue with Cabrera at times, and Craig Mish posited on this week's Prospect Podcast that the Marlins may end up trading Cabrera for hitting once he's healthy.

Eury Perez to Double-A — No prospect got a bigger vote of confidence with their assignment than Perez, who just turned 19. He's going to be the most discussed pitching prospect in the minors all season as long as he performs.

Ian Lewis was held back in extended spring training — I'm not sure why he isn't at Low-A, but it could be related to an injury.

Brewers

Abner Uribe at Double-A — One of the most intriguing reliever prospects in the game, Uribe is being pushed aggressively through the system even while his command remains a major work in progress. It's a matter of when, not if, a 21-year-old pitcher who sits 102-103 with his fastball will have Tommy John surgery, so it makes sense that Milwaukee is giving him every opportunity to move up the ladder.

Sal Frelick at High-A — I'm guessing this is related to Garrett Mitchell playing center field at Double-A, but Frelick should dominate in his return to High-A until he inevitably gets the bump.

These aren't necessarily surprising assignments, but Joey Wiemer (Double-A) and Hedbert Perez (Low-A) picked up where they left off last season. Wiemer is on the fast track and won't stop hitting, and it's starting to look like Perez is not capable of making necessary adjustments at Low-A.

Mets

Alex Ramirez and Dominic Hamel at Low-A — Ramirez is the talk of the low minors right now. His baseball cards and dynasty league stock are trending way up. This is a somewhat concerning assignment for Hamel, as most strong college pitchers from that class are at High-A or above.

Mark Vientos at Triple-A, everyone else at Double-A — I'm still on team Vientos, and at the very least, he is poised to beat Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio to the majors, given where everyone was assigned.

Phillies

Ethan Wilson at High-A — While he is certainly old enough to be at High-A, Wilson didn't cover himself in glory last year at Low-A, so this is an encouraging assignment. His approach seems better and he's 7-for-7 on the bases in five games.

Jordan Viars is recovering from ankle sprain in extended spring training before being sent to Low-A.

Francisco Morales relieving at Double-A — the Phillies pulled the plug on Morales as a starter, so he will develop as a reliever at Double-A and likely get bumped to Triple-A around midseason.

Pirates

Anthony Solometo, Bubba Chandler, Lonnie White all held back in extended spring training — The Pirates will slow-play the development with these three prized picks from last year's draft.

Oneil Cruz, Travis Swaggerty, Ji-hwan Bae, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Mason Martin, Rodolfo Castro, Cal Mitchell all at Triple-A, Tucupita Marcano at Double-A — Given the quality of the big-league roster, we could see any of these Triple-A hitters early this season, while Marcano seems to be more of an afterthought for significant playing time in the majors.

Tahnaj Thomas to bullpen at Double-A — The Pirates appear to be developing Thomas as a reliever. He could be a late-inning option next year.

Quinn Priester is on the IL at Double-A with an oblique injury.

Padres

Ethan Elliot retired.

Victor Lizarraga to Low-A — A prized international signee in 2021, Lizarraga (18) will be one of the youngest players at Low-A this season.

Giants

Ryan Murphy is on the shelf at Double-A with a back injury, Carson Ragsdale is likely to miss the whole season after undergoing thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

Hunter Bishop to High-A — He turns 24 in June, so this feels a bit like a make-or-break assignment for the oft-injured Bishop.

Matt Mikulski to Low-A — The Giants seem to like sending overqualified pitchers to Low-A to get the full four-level full-season experience as part of their development. Mikulski, who turns 23 in May, should lay waste to the hitters at that level before spending most of the year at High-A.

Brett Auerbach at Double-A — Consider me intrigued by Auerbach, a 23-year-old 5-foot-9 catcher/second baseman/third baseman/center fielder who has yet to run into any resistance as a hitter.

Cardinals

Jordan Walker to Double-A — This is the Eury Perez of hitter assignments. He doesn't turn 20 until May 22. I'm skeptical of this assignment, but if he handles it well, he could be an undeniable top-10 prospect within a couple months.

Joshua Baez in extended spring training — This isn't a great sign, unless Baez is dealing with an injury. Most of his peers are at Low-A. I thought there was a chance Baez would hit more than people expected, but he also looked a little too big this spring. 

Nationals

Gerardo Carrillo in relief at Double-A — This is not surprising, but the Nationals seem to have made the transition of Carrillo from starter to reliever.

Daylen Lile needed Tommy John surgery this spring and may miss the whole season.

Aldo Ramirez out with a sore elbow, Seth Romero out with a quad strain, Jackson Rutledge out with biceps soreness.

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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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