The trade deadline is officially in the rearview mirror, but there’s still plenty of reason to keep up with what’s happening down on the farm across MLB. The stretch run is in full swing, a 162-game marathon turned into a six-week sprint to the finish and — whether you’re a contender looking for the spark that will help you secure your playoff positioning or a seller just looking to see what you have to build on for the future — some of the game’s best prospects figure to play a big role in how the rest of this season plays out. (We’ve already seen our first big playoff push promotion, with the Rays calling up top infield prospect Curtis Mead last week.)
Which is where our weekly prospect reports come in. We’ve been keeping you one step ahead of every big call-up all year long, and now we’re here to give you everything you need to know about the players who could be October x-factors or win a job for 2024. Here’s everything that’s happened in the Minors last week.
Prospect report for week of Monday, August 7
Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Cleveland Guardians
The Guardians announced they were soft-selling at the deadline by flipping righty Aaron Civale to the Rays for Manzardo, one of their top prospects — and arguably the best first-base prospect in baseball. A second-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Washington State, Manzardo soared up prospect lists over the past two years on the back of some truly monster offensive numbers: He slashed .327/.426/.617 with 22 homers in 93 games last year across High-A and Double-A. Those numbers have come back to Earth a bit this season in his first taste of Triple-A — he has a .783 OPS with 11 homers so far in Durham — but that’s more due to a fluky .269 BABIP than anything. Manzardo makes a ton of contact, almost all of which is hard and in the air:
Cleveland is seemingly content to punt on this season, but we could see Manzardo get a late call-up anyway, especially if Josh Naylor gets shut down due to his oblique injury.
Masyn Winn, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Speaking of studs who could get playing time on teams looking to retool and see what they have for 2024: Paul DeJong is now a Toronto Blue Jay, and whispers out of St. Louis suggest that Winn could be filling that hole at shortstop sooner rather than later.
A second-round pick back in 2020, Winn’s physical tools have long been obvious — a two-way player in high school, he has maybe the best arm of any non-pitcher in the Minors, an absolute howitzer that lets him throw just about anybody out from shortstop.
The defensive ability is not in question. What has been is his ability to square up the ball consistently enough to be an everyday Major Leaguer, and he’s shown encouraging signs recently. Winn is slashing .284/.355/.467 with 17 homers and 17 steals in his first taste of Triple-A. This is a man who stole 43 bases in 119 games across two levels of the Minors last year, so we know he can fly when he gets on base, and if he keeps spraying line drives like this he can become a very impactful player.
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Chicago Cubs
Welcome to Triple-A, young man:
Pete Crow-Armstrong goes yard for his first Triple-A hit! pic.twitter.com/Xbi6aU6Yw8— Milb Central (@milb_central) August 5, 2023
Heston Kjerstad, OF, Baltimore Orioles
We highlighted Kjerstad a few weeks ago in this space, while noting that he wasn’t quite at the front of the line when it came to Orioles outfield prospects looking for big-league promotions. But the guy who was at the front of the line, Colton Cowser, has struggled mightily in the Majors in lieu of the injured Cedric Mullins, with just a .446 OPS over 70 plate appearances. Mullins is nearing a return to Baltimore, and with him back in center field, the O’s might be inclined to give Kjerstad — not a fit in center but currently killing it in Triple-A — a shot over Cowser. The former No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft has blitzed Norfolk to the tune of a .333/.407/.575 line with seven homers in 46 games,
Corner outfield remains one of the few holes in Baltimore’s lineup as they close in on an AL East title, and Kjerstad appears to be ready to help right now.
Everson Pereira, OF, New York Yankees
If Oswald Peraza can’t crack New York’s every-day lineup, maybe fellow Triple-A star Pereira can? It certainly seems like he has the team’s attention:
Asked whether he thought there were players in the minors who could help the Yankees this season, Cashman brought up Everson Pereira as a possibility.— Brendan Kuty ♂️ (@BrendanKutyNJ) August 2, 2023
It’s not hard to see why Brian Cashman would be intrigued. One of the team’s top signings in the 2017 international class out of Venezuela, Pereira has killed the high Minors this season, slashing .309/.371/.555 with 15 homers and seven steals in 70 games across Double-A and Triple-A. The approach is aggressive, leading to swings and misses and far too many ground balls when he swings at pitches he shouldn’t. But the 22-year-old is an absolute freak of an athlete:
As you can see, he’s a lock to stick in center at least for the foreseeable future, and his bat speed and power are very real. He might need a minute to adjust to big-league pitching, but the sky is the limit if he refines his approach and gets more loft into his swing.
Kyle Harrison, SP, San Francisco Giants
After putting up an eye-popping 14.5 K/9 and 12% swinging-strike rate in his first taste of Triple-A — two numbers that would be at or near the top of the Major League leaderboard — it appeared that Harrison, among the game’s top pitching prospects, was ticketed for a promotion to San Francisco sooner rather than later ... until he tweaked his hamstring at the start of July. That injury held him out for almost a full month, but the lefty is now back and looking as nasty as ever — and banging on the door of his MLB debut.
Farhan says Kyle Harrison is on an "accelerated rehab program" and could join the Giants soon pic.twitter.com/6LuKjVnUA6— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 2, 2023
Harrison hasn’t thrown more than 42 pitches since returning from the IL, but with the Giants’ rotation struggling a bit behind Logan Webb, it should just be a matter of building up his pitch count before he gets the call. The southpaw has two big league-ready pitches right now, with a riding mid-90s heater and a big, sweeping breaker that’s death on lefties.