Last fall I put together a pair of #notascout posts (found here and here) highlighting a handful of guys whom I thought had a shot of rising up the charts in 2022, and as is often the case with prospect prognostication, some calls are better than others.
First, the big hit:
Gavin Stone, RHSP
Stone, a 2020 5th round pick, had a banner year, leading all qualified, full-season minor-league pitchers in ERA, posting a mark of 1.48 as he spent time at three levels — High A Great Lakes, Double A Tulsa, and Triple A Oklahoma City. His combination of pitchability, command and stuff, with a fastball at 93-96 t98, a plus slider, and a devastating changeup that’s somewhere between 60 and 70 depending on the publication, has translated into what will likely be a long, long look at Camelback come Spring Training.
Gavin Stone closed out his 2022 minor league regular season in brilliant fashion, tossing 6.0 scoreless innings, he allowed 3 hits, no walks, and struck out 11⬇️— Josh Thomas (@jokeylocomotive) September 27, 2022
He generated a whopping 22 whiffs, which came at a ridiculous whiff rate of 54% 😳 pic.twitter.com/dE7kzpLNTW
At the time of the post, of the three largest prospect outlets, MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, and FanGraphs, only Pipeline had Stone in the Dodger Top 30, ranking him 28th. He has since made the top 100 list at all three outlets, ranking 77th, 52nd, and 93rd overall, respectively.
You know that thing where you play golf again because of that one shot that’s tremendous and wildly out of character? A total hacker sinking a 50-foot putt? That’s me, right here.
Next up, hits, though to a lesser degree than that first winner:
Jose Ramos, RF
Ramos, a 2018 IFA who signed for just $30k out of Panama, burst onto the scene mid-Summer, 2021, with an explosive 47-game debut at Low A Rancho Cucamonga that saw him post a wOBA of .405, and a wRC+ of 138. He picked up right where he left off in 2022, posting marks of .407 and 131 prior to his mid-May promotion to Great Lakes, which proved to be a bit more of a challenge, as his good-not-great wRC+ of 117 will attest.
What went wrong? High-A pitchers were able to take advantage of Ramos’ still-developing pitch recognition, effectively attacking him with breaking balls, which led to a Great Lakes team-leading swinging strike rate of 17.4%. That mark ranked 50th out of 54 qualified Midwest League hitters.
That said, plenty has gone right — the wiry outfielder possesses incredible strength, posting higher exit velos in the Arizona Fall League (at least as high as 114 mph) than any other Dodger player this season.
As for the rankings, at the time, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Baseball America had him ranked 16th, 16th, and 29th in the Dodger system, and they now have him 8th, 8th, and 17th.
For 2023, continued progress on breaking ball recognition will be key if he is going to tap into his enormous potential.
Jorbit Vivas, 2B
Vivas, a Venezuelan IFA who signed for $300k back in 2018, had a solid, if unspectacular second go-round in the Midwest League, posting a wRC+ of 120, buoyed by his exceptional eye and bat to ball, as he walked more often (11.1%) than he struck out (10.2%).
The Venezuelan second basemen is listed at 5′-10″, 171 lbs, and while the former might be a bit generous, his quick bat still helped him put up modest power numbers for his size (.132 ISO), though far too many flyballs died shy of the warning track in cavernous Midwest League parks. At the time of the post, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Baseball America had him ranked 19th, 22nd, and 30th in the system, and they now have him ranked 16th, 9th, and 24th.
For 2023, Vivas should get the jump to Double-A Tulsa, and that is where things will get interesting. Dow Diamond, the home ballpark of the Great Lakes Loons, is 325′ down the right field line, with a wall that 9′-13′ tall. Combine that with Michigan’s Spring weather, and that makes for an environment that isn’t particularly conducive to power numbers. Oneok Field, Tulsa’s home park, is just 307′ down the right field line, and almost all of right field has a wall that’s just four feet tall. While we are used to wRC+ leveling the playing field on this front, at the minor league level, the metric is not park adjusted, and is instead league adjusted.
TL;DR – It’s entirely possible that 2022 was unrepresentative of Vivas’ pop, on the light side, and 2023 will also be off, though inflated to some degree.
Kyle Hurt, RHP
Hurt, who was acquired in the Dylan Floro trade along with Alex Vesia, was perhaps my biggest gamble, as he tossed all of 21.0 innings as a pro, and while he possessed some huge stuff, he struggled to throw strikes all throughout his time at USC.
That said, 2022 got off to a strong start at Great Lakes, as he had an ERA of 2.21 and a FIP of 2.43, with an excellent strikeout rate of 39.0%, and walk rate of 13.4% that was at least a step in the right direction. The Double-A Texas League proved to be a much greater challenge for the hulking righty, as his ERA and FIP jumped to 9.29 and 6.08, the K rate shrunk to 26.6%, the walk rate ballooned to 21.9%.
More than anything, what stands out about Hurt’s time with Tulsa was the Jekyll and Hyde nature of it. His worst outing of the season, one that saw him get just one out, walk four, and allow four earned runs, was followed by perhaps his most brilliant performance, as he struck out nine and walked just one in 4.0 scoreless innings.
I’m crediting/blaming the uni selections. Lime green Noodlers unis for Hurt every time, please and thanks.
Evaluators remain mixed on Hurt’s outlook — despite stuff that top-shelf, the maddening inconsistency can make a pitching prospect a difficult peg on which to hang your hat. At the time of the post, none of MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, or Baseball America had him in the Top 30 for the Dodgers. They currently have him 21st, 41st, and 27th, so there was indeed a rise, though they all remain understandably cautious due inconsistency and command.
For 2023, Hurt should start out at Tulsa again, and attacking with his loud repertoire should be the order of the day. Dare ’em to hit it.
Lastly, the only big miss:
Taylor, whom the Dodgers picked in the 4th round of the 2020 draft, had a very good debut campaign at the High-A Level in 2021, posting a wRC+ of 123, with an excellent walk rate of 13.2%, a strikeout rate of 18.4%, and an ISO of .155. A 22-year-old switch-hitting catcher who gets on base, gets the bat on the ball, and is showing a bit of pop in a pitcher-friendly league, what’s not to like?
Unfortunately, there was a step backwards with Tulsa. Taylor’s walk rate and strikeout rates both went backwards a tad, at 9.6% and 22.1%, which is hardly cause for concern. The wRC+, however, dropped all the way to 78.
One of Taylor’s stated offseason goals was to focus on maintaining a shorter path to the ball, along with pulling and doing that elevate to celebrate. Unfortunately, his GB/FB ratio went backwards in this area, going from 1.21 to 1.54. He’s a 20 runner, so that’s a lot of automatic outs to add to the mix. At the time of the post, MLB Pipeline, FanGraphs, and Baseball America had Taylor ranked 30th, 37th, and 20th. He held steady at FanGraphs, but fell off both Pipeline and BA’s list entirely.
For 2023, Taylor should return to Tulsa, with an eye on getting the ball in the air to take advantage of his 55 raw power. With Diego Cartaya and Dalton Rushing rocketing their way up, Taylor may need a quick start to keep ascending through the system.
That’s all for last year’s shots in the dark. In the coming weeks, I will be endeavoring to get just one right again; just enough to keep me coming back. After all, dumb luck is still a kind of luck, and I’ll take any success over none at all.
Enjoy your Tuesday, folks.