In an MLB season defined by so many memorable rookie debuts, it was a couple of demotions making headlines this past week: Both Grayson Rodriguez and Brandon Pfaadt, two of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, were sent back down to Triple-A after struggling mightily in their first taste of the Show. Our weekly prospect report will give you everything you need to know about those two and all the other goings on in the Minors, complete with which potential stars could be getting the call next.
Prospect report for week of Monday, May 29th
Grayson Rodriguez, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Grayson Rodriguez still may be the future of the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation, but with the team in a dogfight with the Tampa Bay Rays atop the AL East, the team has decided that it can’t afford to wait for that future to arrive. Baltimore demoted its top pitching prospect over the weekend, a day after Rodriguez was shelled by the Texas Rangers to the tune of nine runs (eight earned) on six hits and three walks in just 3.1 innings.
The future is still very bright here — the stuff was as electric as advertised, with 56 strikeouts in 45.1 innings of work — but the righty’s 7.35 ERA and 1.72 WHIP testify to how much work needs to be done before his command is Major League ready. With the O’s in the thick of the postseason chase (and without a ton of better rotation options right now) I don’t expect Rodriguez to be down for long; once he gets his confidence back in Triple-A, we could see him get another crack at the bigs around the All-Star break.
Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Pfaadt, on the other hand, could be down a little longer. The righty got lit up again last week by the Boston Red Sox, with five more runs in just 3.2 innings pushing his season-long ERA up to 8.37, and a surprisingly competitive D-backs team decided it had seen enough. While Rodriguez just needs some fine-tuning, Pfaadt’s problems in his first MLB go-round felt more foundational: His four-seam fastball, the pitch that served as his meal ticket through the Minors and that he threw over 55% of the time this year, simply wasn’t good enough. The heater got shellacked to the tune of a .644 slugging percentage, and unless something significant changes, that puts a real dent in Pfaadt’s long-term outlook.
Ronny Mauricio, 2B/SS, New York Mets
Mauricio has recently begun getting reps in at both second and third base, and when a top prospect starts trying out new positions, it generally means a promotion is close at hand. It’s not hard to see why the Mets would be looking for a place to put their young infielder, as Mauricio is absolutely tearing up Triple-A this year to the tune of a .341/.383/.564 slash line with seven homers and nine steals.
The plate approach still isn’t ideal — this will be his first Minor League season with an OBP above .307 — but Mauricio has cut his chase rate as the year has gone on, and at this point his ability to do damage on contact has earned him a chance to prove it at the highest level. Given how well he’s taken to his new positions, we could see him up at some point in the next couple of weeks — and his power/speed potential would make him worth an add in most fantasy leagues despite the average concerns.
Colton Cowser, OF, Baltimore Orioles
Cedric Mullins landing on the IL would be an ideal time to call up Cowser for his MLB debut ... except Baltimore’s top outfield prospect is also on the shelf right now with a quad injury. Luckily, the youngster should return to action soon, and if Mullins is still on the shelf when that happens — and given the nature of groin strains, it seems likely he will be — it could be Cowser’s time in Baltimore.
Elias said Colton Cowser was building a case for a callup before his inj. Now they have to get him back. Once agn used the days not weeks timeframe w Cowser.— Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) May 30, 2023
Cowser continues to obliterate Triple-A, with a .331/.469/.554 slash, seven homers and five steals across just 37 games. He could be a five-category contributor if he gets extended run, with great patience at the plate and the ability to pop 20 homers at the Major League level. Stay tuned.
Oswald Peraza, SS, New York Yankees
Peraza underwhelmed in his first MLB cameo earlier this year, but the top prospect has been killing it once again since being sent back down to Triple-A earlier this month — with a 1.187 OPS and six homers in 11 games. Given Anthony Volpe’s struggles and injuries up and down New York’s lineup, it seems likely that Peraza will get another shot to stick in the Bronx soon, and there’s still the potential for a solid-average, sneaky-pop, plus-speed player here; the shortstop’s approach and ability to make contact have never been in question.
AJ Smith-Shawver, SP, Atlanta Braves
Ho-hum, just another electric young arm who’s emerged out of nowhere and appears ready to contribute to the Braves’ postseason push at some point this summer. We shouldn’t be surprised at this point when Atlanta churns these guys out, and Smith-Shawver has carved up three levels of the Minors already this season.
Braves top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver has become an absolute force. Second start in Triple-A yesterday.— Aram Leighton (@AramLeighton8) May 26, 2023
7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
FB: 94-96 mph, t-97 mph - 13 called strikes+whiffs
SL: 84-87 mph - 9 called strikes+whiffs
CB: 78-81 mph - 4 called strikes+whiffs
: @GoStripers pic.twitter.com/gmlD21eYJl
A seventh-round pick in the 2021 draft, the righty’s electric stuff — particularly some wicked mid-90s heat — has never been question. What has been in question is his command, as he walked an ugly 49 batters over 76 innings across his first two seasons of pro ball. That wildness looks like a thing of the past this year, though, as Smith-Shawver has walked just 12 batters in 33 innings to go with 45 Ks and a microscopic 1.09 ERA. That performance has rocketed him from High-A to Triple-A, and with injury concerns swirling around Kyle Wright and Max Fried, Smith-Shawver could vault himself above Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster in Atlanta’s rotation pecking order before long.
Dominic Canzone, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy have floundered at the Major League level this year, and their loss could be Canzone’s gain. In his last 26 games, the outfielder is slashing an insane .402/.500/.717 with 19 walks (17% walk rate) and 14 strikeouts (12.5% K rate). The former eighth-round pick out of Ohio State has hit at every level, and while he’s also been at or over age at every level — he’s already 25 years old — he deserves a shot to prove he can do it in the Majors. There didn’t seem to be much opportunity for Canzone this winter, but things have changed quickly for the Snakes, and he could get the call shortly.
Top 25 prospects to stash for fantasy baseball
Week of 5/29
|2||Elly de la Cruz||SS||Reds||July|
|9||David Hamilton||SS||Red Sox||May|
|13||Oscar Colas||OF||White Sox||June|