Guardian Apprentices

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1.
Denzel Clarke

The Report: Always bet on plus-or-better power combined with plus-or-better speed. This combo provides players with so much room for error. It allows hitters to get away with swing-and-miss, which Clarke has in spades, because when they do hit the ball it’s with impact. It allows fielders to get away with soft contact, slow jumps, and poor reads, because they can beat it out or chase it down. When the plus-power, plus-speed bat also walks at a high clip, giving them a high OBP floor, go all in.

Clarke is a good example of the description above, a great athlete who can get away with being a little rough around the edges in certain capacities, but he’s also showing progress in sanding those down. In 2023, his K-rate dropped from around 33% to just under 30%, despite jumping to Double-A. This number was also dropping month-by-month throughout the season, bottoming at around 25% in June. At 6-foot-5 and long-legged, Clarke covers ground quickly on the bases and more importantly in center field, where that speed combines with strong reads for a plus defensive projection. A long swing path through the zone and acceptable spin recognition portend continued development in his hit tool, and his natural power allows him to access 20+ home run pop with a toned-down swing, minimizing whiffs. Clarke has flown under the radar until now, but has a real chance to be a first-division center fielder.

Of note, he did miss the last two months of the year with a strained shoulder—it will be important to ensure he returns with the same strength when he hits the field in 2024.

OFP: 60 / First-division center fielder, borderline All-Star
Variance: High. Swing-and-miss and injuries bring plenty of variance to the table. It remains possible upper-level pitch sequencing and command will poke holes in his swing and approach.

https://www.baseballprospectus.com/pros ... prospects/
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https://bleacherreport.com/articles/101 ... rt-of-2024

65. OF Ceddanne Rafaela, BOS

-Signed for just $10,000 in 2017, Ceddanne Rafaela is a potential Gold Glove defender in center field, and he has a 50-hit, 50-power, 60-speed offensive profile. The 23-year-old hit .302/.349/.520 with 31 doubles, 20 home runs, 79 RBI and 36 steals in 108 games in the upper minors last year, and he could get a long look for an Opening Day roster spot.

55. 2B Termarr Johnson, PIT

46. SS Luisangel Acuña, NYM

-The New York Mets acquired Luisangel Acuña from the Texas Rangers in the Max Scherzer deal at the deadline, and he now stands as the top prospect in a restocked system. The 21-year-old has above-average tools across the board, and he hit .294/.359/.410 with 39 extra-base hits and 57 steals at Double-A.
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https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories ... ring-2024/

Dameury Pena, 2B

Preseason rank: 27
BA Grade: 50. Risk: Extreme.

TRACK RECORD: Pena’s thumbnail scouting report may sound familiar to Twins fans: he’s a second baseman who will have to work to stay there and doesn’t really have a chance to play shortstop. His power is modest at best. He doesn’t run particularly well. Pretty much everything other than his hitting ability is fringy at best, but he’s such a polished, competent hitter that it may not matter, as he’s got a chance to hit .300 regularly if he develops as hoped.

SCOUTING REPORT: Pena can really hit. He just missed qualifying, but with a few more plate appearances he would have finished second in the Dominican Summer League in batting average. He has plenty of barrel control and adaptability to his swing, which allows him to make tons of contact. Pitchers quickly learn that getting a swing and miss from Pena is worthy of a celebration—his 10% swing-and-miss rate was best among all Twins minor leaguers with 20 or more plate appearances. It’s generally hard to put a plus hit tool on a 18-year-old who has yet to play in the U.S., but Pena inspires a lot of confidence. He should eventually get to below-average power but it’s a swing geared for average more than pop. Defensively, he’s going to need to take thousands of ground balls. His hands are hard, his range is limited and his arm is fringe-average.

THE FUTURE: Pena is going to need to be an elite hitter to have MLB value, but as Luis Arraez has shown before him, if you can challenge for batting titles, teams can live with a lot of fringe tools otherwise. Pena is more than ready to come to make his stateside debut.

Scouting Grades
Hitting: 60. Power: 40. Run: 45. Fielding: 40. Arm: 45.
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BP 101

59. Ceddanne Rafaela
77. Luisangel Acuna
90. Termarr Johnson
99. Denzel Clarke

The Next 10

Miguel Bleis, OF, Boston Red Sox
Bleis put together a breakout campaign in the Florida complex in 2022, no mean feat, and seemed poised to ascend to the top tier of outfield prospects with a strong Carolina League stint in 2023. Instead, he scuffled through a rough month-plus in Salem before a shoulder injury ended his season. Salem is not a fun place to hit—see Roman Anthony’s slash line—but everything slid a bit for Bleis last year. His contact rates and swing decisions were marginally worse, though fine for his age and level, and perhaps even less regression than you’d expect for a teenager jumping from the complex to full-season. But he struggled badly to impact the ball. We can point you back to “season-ending shoulder injury,” but Bleis lacked physicality at the plate even when healthy, and while he has a loose swing with good barrel manipulation, there are a lot of moving parts that made it tougher from him to get Carolina League pitches on the sweet spot of the lumber. This should all come in time, but he lost important developmental reps last season, so we need to see him back on the field and making these adjustments before he’s back on the 101 proper. The upside hasn’t really changed much, though, as Bleis has flashed above-average hit and power tools with a good shot to stick in center field. —Jeffrey Paternostro
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Sunday Notes: Seattle Pitching Prospect Troy Taylor Impressed Scouts in Arizona
by David Laurila
January 14, 2024
Troy Taylor is an under-the-radar pitcher to keep your eye on in the Seattle Mariners system. A 22-year-old right-hander who was taken in the 12th round of the 2022 draft out of the University of California Irvine, Taylor impressed evaluators in the Arizona Fall League with a two-pitch mix that has him well-positioned for a future role as a big-league reliever.

“I’m a big fan of what he can do athletically, as a mover,” said a scout I spoke to. “His stuff is good. He’s a guy who probably ends up in the bullpen with the Mariners, and sooner rather than later.”

He’s already come a long way. Taylor was an infielder at Rancho Cucamonga’s Los Osos High School, and when he did occasionally take the mound — “I closed a couple of times” — all he really did was throw as hard he could. It wasn’t until he got to Cyprus Junior College, and then to UC-Irvine, that he “actually started learning how to pitch.”

Taylor has understandably learned a lot more about the nuances of his craft since signing with Seattle, but he nonetheless remains anything but a technician. Topping out at 98 mph and typically averaging “five and some change,” he still tries to throw his heater as hard as he can. He identifies as a power pitcher.

Adding a third pitch is a goal — the Mariners have him working on a changeup to use against left-handed hitters — but his fastball-slider combination will always be his bread and butter. The former is not only his best pitch, it has unique characteristics.

“I have a lot of run on my fastball,” explained Taylor. “I throw with four seams, but it comes out with about 16-to-20 inches of run. Technically it tags as a sinker, but I throw a four-seam fastball. I think the run comes from my lower arm slot. I don’t try to make it run, it just comes from my natural slot.”

His complementary offering grades out as solid-plus and is modeled after the one thrown by a young Mariners reliever who logged a 34.7% strikeout rate last year.

“We’ve been trying to shoot for sweep on my slider,” Taylor told me. “The goal is 85 [mph] with low teens of sweep in the zone. That’s the biggest part of it, throwing it hard and in the zone. They teach us the Matt Brash spiked slider, so I’m throwing that one.”

Taylor had a 31.0% strikeout rate to go with a 3.38 ERA over 45-and-a-third innings this past season between Low-A Modesto and High-A Everett.
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Bowden: 40 Young MLB Players and Prospects I'm Most Excited to Scout in Spring Training

Luisangel Acuña, 2B, Mets
The Mets acquired Acuña from the Rangers in the deadline trade for Max Scherzer. He is the younger brother of Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. The 21-year-old middle infielder slashed .294/.359/.410 last year in Double A with 28 doubles and 57 stolen bases. (He was caught stealing 10 times.) He profiles as a future table-setter who plays with high energy and enthusiasm.


Termarr Johnson, 2B, Pirates
Johnson is considered the best-hitting second-base prospect in baseball. He was the No. 4 pick in the 2022 draft out of Mays High in Atlanta. A left-handed hitter, Johnson had a .422 OBP between Low A and High A with 18 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts. The 19-year-old is going to be special. I can’t wait to see him on the back fields in spring training.
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https://www.baseballprospectus.com/pros ... prospects/

7.
Adam Macko
Pos
: LHP
Born
: 2000-12-30
B
: Left
T
: Left
H
: 6′ 0″
W
: 170 lbs.
History: Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 7th round of the 2019 draft, Vauxhall HS (Vauxhall, Alberta, Canada); signed for $250,000. Acquired from the Mariners for Teoscar Hernandez prior to the 2023 season.
Previous Rank
: #10 (org)
Major League ETA
: 2025

The Report: Last winter, Eli Walsh’s report for Macko was headlined by the fact that we were awaiting the first of “two healthy seasons” to feel confident in his ability to start in the long-term. Macko made 20 starts in 2023 and threw for 86 innings, both career highs by more than double his past marks. Injuries severely curtailed the Slovakian-born lefty in years past, but he posted for every turn through the rotation in 2023, facing at least 16 batters in all but one start (13). Glance at Macko through a different facet of the prism, of course, and you’ll notice he recorded an out past the fifth inning just once, and allowed 40 free passes alongside eight hit by pitches. He often worms his way out of jams by leaning on a deep repertoire that is particularly impressive given his atypical pathway to prospectdom, playing baseball throughout Europe and then Canada as a youth.

The best of his off-speed is a low-80s slider that has two-plane bite, though at times Macko flashes an above-average changeup in the same range. The cambio, er, zmeniť (“change” in Slovak) is the most important off-speed for Macko, because as his command of the pitch goes, so goes his long-term rotation projection. When he’s staying closed with his front side and consistent mechanically, the pitch has vampiric bite, playing off his riding low-90s fastball which he’ll elevate from a low-three-quarters arm slot. Too often, he’ll fly open, wasting the pitch well off the plate in a similar issue that can at times befall his slower, 11-5 curve. Macko’s future still projects rotation potential, particularly given how skillfully he misses bats and works out of trouble with his off-speed drawing grounders, but his inefficiency with pitches is untenable moving forward for making it past the fifth inning consistently.

OFP: 50 / High-K No. 4-5 starter who makes it through the fifth inning most times out, or high-leverage multi-inning bullpen arm who handles hitters from both sides of the plate well
Variance: High. Macko’s mix makes him a promising 4-5 inning arm, and he has better stuff than many southpaws in the minors. The combination of health concerns and command issues undercut further confidence. —John Trupin

important off-speed for Macko, because as his command of the pitch goes, so goes his long-term rotation projection. When he’s staying closed with his front side and consistent mechanically, the pitch has vampiric bite, playing off his riding low-90s fastball which he’ll elevate from a low-three-quarters arm slot. Too often, he’ll fly open, wasting the pitch well off the plate in a similar issue that can at times befall his slower, 11-5 curve. Macko’s future still projects rotation potential, particularly given how skillfully he misses bats and works out of trouble with his off-speed drawing grounders, but his inefficiency with pitches is untenable moving forward for making it past the fifth inning consistently.

OFP: 50 / High-K No. 4-5 starter who makes it through the fifth inning most times out, or high-leverage multi-inning bullpen arm who handles hitters from both sides of the plate well
Variance: High. Macko’s mix makes him a promising 4-5 inning arm, and he has better stuff than many southpaws in the minors. The combination of health concerns and command issues undercut further confidence. —John Trupin
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https://www.espn.com/mlb/insider/inside ... on-chourio

34. Termarr Johnson, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
Age: 19 | Bats: Left | Throws: Right

Type: Precocious power-and-patience second baseman with average-ish other tools.

Johnson was identified as a potential high draft pick early in his high school career (at least as a sophomore, if not a freshman). He went wire-to-wire with Druw Jones among Georgia prep position players in the 2022 class, with Jones being selected second by Arizona and Johnson going fourth to Pittsburgh.

Johnson is a fringy runner and fine second baseman, but the sales pitch here is plus lefty raw power, plus pitch selection and good feel to get to his power in games. He hit 18 home runs last season despite a slow start: through July 1, Johnson was hitting just.232/.387/.395 with 7 homers in 222 PA, a 19% walk rate and 32% strikeout rate in Low-A. He caught fire after that while playing mostly in High-A, putting up a .256/.454/.483 line with 11 homers in 240 PA and an absurd 25% walk rate to a 20% strikeout rate.

I graded Johnson as having a plus hit tool pre-draft, and he started leaning more into a power-and-patience skill set in 2023 with a chance he could still adjust that approach in the upper minors.

58. Luisangel Acuna, SS, New York Mets
Age: 21 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right

Type: Brother of Ronald is 5-foot-8, electric, the entirety of the Max Scherzer trade return, and might be ready soon

Listed at just 5-foot-8, 181 pounds, Acuna might not immediately grab your attention if you see him walking around before the game starts. But he is electric on the field, with plus speed, an above-average arm and a quick first step that allows him to play any position.

His plus bat speed, sneaky solid-average raw power, and Ronald-esque swing also make him one of the more exciting hitters to watch on this list. His swing and chase rates are a bit higher than average, but he appears more out of control than he actually is because of the effort in his swing.

After he came to the Mets in last summer's trade with the Rangers, a couple of scouts told me they think Acuna will settle in as a plus defensive second baseman with baserunning value (57 stolen bases last year) and be something like a league-average threat at the plate, but they also aren't totally sure how Acuna will choose to use his tools or how big league pitching will fare in attacking him. That sounds like former major leaguer Orlando Hudson with 20+ extra stolen bases per year, which would be an occasional All-Star.
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Klaw top 100:

24. Termarr Johnson

2023 Ranking: 18

Johnson has real plate discipline and excellent feel to hit, leading the full-season minors in walk rate and finishing fifth in total walks drawn with 101. He has excellent pitch selection and developing power but some cracks in the approach and the defense that weren’t apparent before this year. Johnson cleared up the hitch he would flash in high school and his bat path is clean and lets him get to that emerging power, with 18 homers in 2023 after he hit just one in 23 games in his pro debut the year before. He doesn’t chase, a skill that was more evident after he was promoted out of the Florida State League, where the league uses automated ball-strike system for some games, which has produced higher walk rates when it’s in place. However, he’s shown more propensity to whiff in the zone, and a late load seems to be impairing his timing, so even if he picks up the pitch type he’s still showing some swing and miss. Defensively, he's moved to second base and scouts are very mixed on whether that’s going to be a long-term solution for him, as his footwork isn’t great and he’s getting by on his incredible instincts and baseball IQ — which isn’t a bad thing, mind you, but might not keep him at the position unless his mechanics improve. His range of outcomes has widened in both directions since last offseason; he could be a high-OBP, 18-22 homer second baseman, making a lot of All-Star teams and playing for a long time, but he could also end up in left field and/or miss too much in the zone to get to the high averages and OBPs everyone foresaw in high school.

32. Ceddanne Rafaela

2023 Ranking: 37

Rafaela’s one of the most fascinating prospects in the minors, a 5-9 infielder/center fielder from Curaçao who hits the ball harder than you’d expect from someone his size, plays some of the best center-field defense anywhere in professional baseball, and might swing at a butterfly if it flew within 10 feet of him. He started his pro career at shortstop and third base, but he’s too inconsistent for short and ended up moving to second, where he’s plus, and center, where he might be an 80, with easy routes and at least 70 speed to cover huge tracts of land. As a hitter, he­ boasts great bat speed and can connect with a lot of pitches out of the strike zone, which worked well enough in the minors but was an area that major-league pitchers exploited during his 28-game MLB debut. He’ll probably never be much for the free pass, but if he just cuts down on the chase, he has the strength and the loft in his finish to at least hit for line-drive power — balls to the gaps that will become doubles and triples with his speed, plus probably 12-18 homers a year, although he did hit 22 last year across three levels. He’s not the sort of player I typically like with his undisciplined approach, but I think he has a chance to be the most valuable defensive outfielder in baseball, giving him a high floor and thus time to clean up the approach enough for the swing and speed to play.

45. Luisangel Acuna

2023 Ranking: Unranked

Acuña is the younger brother of reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and went to the Mets as part of the return for Max Scherzer this past July. He’s only 5-8 but he’s ultra-twitchy and shows 60 raw power in BP and 65-70 running speed, although in games he can show more contact than power and might need a small swing adjustment to get to more than 12-15 homers a year. His contact quality improved from 2022 to 2023, which at least sets him up to be a high doubles guy and gives him a strong floor as a regular at some position up the middle. He’s a shortstop now and projects to stay there, with the speed and lateral range to handle it or move to center field if need be. As is, he’s probably a high-average, high-doubles shortstop who steals 40-50 bags a year, although I could see him trading some contact for more power and getting to 20 jacks. Either way, he’s got an above-average regular’s ceiling and a floor that should make Mets fans feel good about the trade.

88. Miguel Bleis

2023 Ranking: 72

It was a lost year for Bleis in 2023, as he hit .230/.282/.325 in his first taste of Low A, but hurt his shoulder after 31 games and underwent season-ending surgery. He’d had previous subluxations in that shoulder, so the hope is the surgery will clear that issue up permanently and let him get back to hitting. He’ll show five tools, with 60 raw power and 55 speed that would allow him to stay in center long-term if he doesn’t lose speed as he fills out, and he has great bat speed that’s undermined by a poor approach and some extra movement before he gets the barrel going toward the zone. He’s looking fastball too often, so he struggled with pitch and ball/strike recognition in 2022 and his brief stint in 2023, chasing secondary stuff out of the zone more than he should, but that’s the sort of thing that only improves with playing time. I wrote last year that I wouldn’t “be shocked or too dismayed if he struggles early in Low A as an inexperienced 19-year-old,” and that did happen, but he never got a chance to make adjustments. There’s still high-average/25-homer potential in a center fielder here. Depending on his shoulder strength — he’s supposed to be full go for spring training, at least — and how much time he needs to shake off the rust, however, any progress might not come until later in the year.
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https://www.baseballamerica.com/teams/2 ... =preseason

14. Marcus Johnson
RHP

Ht: 6'6" | Wt: 200 | B-T: R-R

Age: null

BA Grade: 50/High

Track Record: For much of his career at Duke, Johnson was a successful reliever. A move to the rotation as a junior didn’t go as well, and he posted a near 6.00 ERA in his 2022 pro debut as a starter in the Marlins system as well. The Rays liked his control and delivery anyway and acquired him with Santiago Suarez in the deal that sent Xavier Edwards and J.T. Chargois to Miami. Johnson responded by being one of the better starters in the Low-A Carolina League in 2023. In late July and early August, Johnson hit a minor speed bump, as he struggled with his control in back-to-back starts. Those eight walks in 8.2 innings were more than one-third of all the walks he issued in 2023.

Scouting Report: Even if Johnson’s stuff can be described as average at best, it’s hard to ignore what plus control does for a pitcher. Johnson locates both arm side and glove side. His 92-94 mph fastball is an average pitch, and his low-80s sweepy slider and bigger breaking high-70s curveball with 1-to-7 shape are both fringe average, as is his mid-80s changeup. For skeptical scouts, he’s just a dime-a-dozen, back-end starter. But because he throws strikes and locates all four pitches, hitters are often caught on their back foot.

The Future: Johnson’s upside is likely as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but No. 5 starters don’t dot the corners like this. He has a chance to exceed expectations because of his excellent control and command.

Scouting Grades Fastball: 50 | Curveball: 45 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 65
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https://www.baseballamerica.com/teams/2 ... =preseason

9. Luis Perales
RHP

Ht: 6'1" | Wt: 160 | B-T: R-R

Age: null

BA Grade: 50/Very High

Track Record: Perales showed the arm speed to suggest plenty of fastball projection as a $75,000 signee in 2019. He quickly generated buzz as his velocity ticked into the mid 90s shortly after he turned pro. Limited by the 2020 shutdown and injuries to two professional innings through 2021, Perales dominated in 2022 chiefly with an electrifying fastball in three-inning stints. He responded well to an increased workload in 2023, showing elite stuff­--albeit with mixed results--and posting a 29% strikeout rate across two levels of Class A.

Scouting Report: Though his slight frame creates concerns about injury risk, Perales is a fast mover who generates plenty of power and whip with his arm. His fastball averages 95 mph and tops out at 99 with a ridiculous 21 inches of vertical ride and 6.7 feet of extension--elite traits that will miss bats. He throws both a high-80s slider that currently grades as average, given how it tunnels off his fastball, as well as a slower one in the low 80s that plays as a hard curveball. Perales also employs a changeup but may try to redirect his offspeed offering to a splitter. He struggled with both his walk rate (13%) and hard contact (2.0 home runs per nine innings) once promoted to the hitter-friendly environment of High-A Greenville. That left questions about whether he will have the command, control or durability to stick as a starter, but his stuff is that of an impact big leaguer regardless of role.

The Future: Despite never having pitched above High-A, Perales’ fastball was good enough to force his way onto the 40-man roster in November. Though he’ll most likely open 2024 at High-A Greenville, he’ll get a chance to compete for a spot in Double-A. Perales will be given plenty of runway to develop as a starter, and has a likely big league ETA of 2025.

Scouting Grades Fastball: 70 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45
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https://theathletic.com/5273597/2024/02 ... rId=224615

Among the more interesting answers Cora gave on Tuesday was his view of Ceddanne Rafaela’s role. At the start of the offseason, when discussing Rafaela, the focus remained on his need to refine swing decisions and hone his offensive approach. His defense, unquestionably, is already big-league ready, but his bat isn’t quite there yet. In 89 plate appearances last season, he struck out 28 times, but the 23-year-old did hit two homers and six doubles.

While it’s no certainty Rafaela will make the opening-day roster, his defensive home appears mostly settled.

“I do believe if Rafaela makes the team, he’s gonna play center field,” Cora said.

So what does Rafaela have to do to make the team?

“Honestly, he had a good offseason,” Cora said. “He was in Tampa the last month, working on his body, with his swing, all that stuff. It’s just a matter of how we feel about it. We know the defensive game is elite. It’s a game-changer. You have seen throughout the yearsm right, organizations have made efforts of improving the defense and taking the at-bats. The Phillies did it last year. I think Toronto did it last year, too.

“So we’ll sit down as a group towards the end and decide what we want, if we’re comfortable with a kid playing center field, understanding that there’s going to be struggles at the big-league level in the offensive part of it, then we’ll go that way. If we feel that he needs to go to the minor leagues and keep getting better and keep improving, we’ll do that.”

Reading between the lines, it appears the Red Sox value Rafaela’s defense so much they’re willing to sacrifice his offense in center and hope he continues to adjust to big-league pitching. It’s an obvious risk, and one they’ll continually assess.
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https://theathletic.com/5266003/2024/02 ... ed-article

2. Luisangel Acuña, SS (2024 top 100 ranking: 45)
Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-8 | Weight: 180 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Acuña is the younger brother of reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and went to the Mets as part of the return for Max Scherzer this past July. He’s only 5-8 but he’s ultra-twitchy and shows 60 raw power in BP and 65-70 running speed, although in games he can show more contact than power and might need a small swing adjustment to get to more than 12-15 homers a year. His contact quality improved from 2022 to 2023, which at least sets him up to be a high doubles guy and gives him a strong floor as a regular at some position up the middle.

He’s a shortstop now and projects to stay there, with the speed and lateral range to handle it or move to centerfield if need be. As is, he’s probably a high-average, high-doubles shortstop who steals 40-50 bags a year, although I could see him trading some contact for more power and getting to 20 jacks. Either way, he’s got an above-average regular’s ceiling and a floor that should make Mets fans feel good about the trade.
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FG Top 100:

#37: Termarr Johnson

The fourth pick in the 2022 draft, Johnson looked like he might be a quick-mover. His post-draft foray into pro ball featured its fair share of awkward swings, and Johnson missed the first month of 2023 with a hamstring injury. He struggled very badly with strikeouts upon return, but he cut his Ks down to 20% after the All-Star break and hit .260/.451/.487 the rest of the season, which includes five weeks at High-A Greensboro. More impressive was that he nearly matched his strikeout total with walks. By the end of the season, Johnson’s 21.9% walk rate across Low- and High-A was the highest of any minor leaguer with as many at-bats as he accrued. As that would imply, Johnson kept his chase rate in check at both levels, though his patience bordered on passivity, with a swing rate below 39%.

There is a lot of swing-and-miss happening here, more than we projected when Termarr was coming out of high school, because his swing is so completely geared for power that he sometimes corkscrews himself into the ground. Termarr has a lot of juice, and after he looked like a slap hitter at times during his 2022 debut, he clubbed 18 homers in 2023. He has huge offensive upside for a middle infielder, especially if the power can be combined with a high OBP. We thought Termarr could have played a passable college shortstop and that he might be developed there initially as a pro, but instead he’s played second base almost exclusively and he’s flashy, if a bit uneven there. With time he should be a slugging second baseman with peak years of 30 homers and plus OBP.

#50: Ceddanne Rafaela

Rafaela is a Gold Glove-caliber center field defender capable of making tough plays look easy and impossible plays possible, especially around the wall. He took to center field very quickly after moving there from shortstop (where he still plays on occasion) a few years ago. Especially if you’re inclined to project improvement here because he hasn’t played the outfield for very long, Rafaela has a chance to be the best defensive center fielder in baseball at peak. He is also capable of playing a couple of spots on the infield, though not nearly as well; unless his plate discipline is so terrible that he shifts into a premium utility role, he is probably just going to play center field all the time.

Even at 23, Rafaela still has a sinewy, projectable frame. He’s hit 21 bombs each of the last two seasons and we project he’ll add another half grade of power in his mid-to-late 20s. Whether he’ll get to that power is another matter — Rafaela is a very aggressive hitter who has chased at a 40% clip each of the last two seasons. There is some risk of his offense totally bottoming out the way Cristian Pache‘s did, but here he’s projected more like Kevin Pillar but with peak years of superior power.

#71: Miguel Bleis

Bleis signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in January of 2021, and after a solid showing in the DSL that year, he created huge buzz on the complex in Fort Myers throughout 2022 because of his bat speed and power. He was on the short list of players who entered 2023 with a chance to “Chourio,” i.e. leap into the top 10 overall prospect mix within the next year. Instead, Bleis had a bad first month of full-season ball, subluxated his left shoulder during a swing at the end of May, and ended up needing season-ending surgery.

Bleis has all-world bat speed and rare rotational athleticism. His timing at the plate and breaking ball recognition were pretty bad during his brief 2023 sample, and he often looked uncomfortable and erratic at the plate before he was shut down. Bleis’ best swings produce shocking raw power for such a lithe young hitter, and he might grow into more. In part because of Roman Anthony’s presence, Bleis played a mix of center and right field before his injury. He has the speed and range to play center, but is procedurally raw when it comes to things like communicating with the other outfielders and where he decides to throw the baseball. Projected viability in center is a big part of why Bleis is graded this high despite the volatility with his offense, which was already significant and became greater because of the missed reps last year. Would he have made an in-season adjustment had he stayed healthy? Or would he have endured an entire season of struggles and fallen away from this tier of player more starkly? If Bleis fails to make adjustments, then he’s on more of a Jose Siri trajectory. His talent is big enough that it should eventually shine through despite his approach.
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Athletic Just Missed Top 100: https://theathletic.com/5244674/2024/02 ... ssed-2024/

Blake Mitchell, C, Kansas City Royals
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 200 | Bats: L | Throws: R | Seasonal age in 2024: 19

Mitchell was the first catcher taken in the 2023 draft, as the Royals selected him eighth overall and gave him a below-slot bonus to allow them to sign three guys for above-slot later on in the draft. He’s a power-hitting catcher with a plus arm who shows the skills to be an above-average defender behind the plate, touching 94 mph as a pitcher while in high school. He begins his setup at the plate with a very wide stance and then strides forward from there, so he’s had trouble with better offspeed stuff in high school and in a brief stint last summer in the ACL.

Mitchell is going to need time, as all catchers do, but particularly to work on developing his approach and ability to pick up spin and changing speeds. It’s 25-homer upside with above-average defense if he hits enough to get to the power.
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https://blogs.fangraphs.com/los-angeles ... ects-2024/

9. Emil Morales, SS
Signed: International Signing Period, 2024 from Dominican Republic (LAD)
Age 17.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 50/70 25/70 50/50 40/50 60
Morales had perhaps the best long-term power projection among the 2024 international class infielders, as most of the other prospects with wide receiver-ish builds were outfielders. Morales has wide shoulders, long levers, and a high waist that gives him the look of an early career Fernando Tatis Jr. in the uniform. Morales also has explosive power to his pull side and can already put balls out to dead center field at age 17. Unlike a lot of lanky teenage hitters, Morales’ bat-to-ball performance in amateur events was statistically strong. On film, his hands have a late, deep move that I worry will make him late against pro velocity, but it’s too early to care much about that. Morales bends well for an athlete of his size and build, and he has a decent shot to stay at shortstop. While he’s a skill fit there, it’s plausible that sheer size will force him to move in his early-to-mid-20s. Likely to spend the entire 2024 calendar year in the D.R., we won’t have a scouting update on Morales until deep into the summer when he’s accumulated some amount of pro data and put at least a few games on available tape.
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https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories ... backfields

Brandon Sproat, RHP, Mets
The Mets have long been admirers of Sproat’s stuff, having drafted the Florida product twice. Multiple scouts who saw the righthander in the Spring Breakout game came away impressed. Sproat combines excellent pure stuff, including a mid-90s fastball, a nasty changeup and a 60-grade slider, into a strong, athletic body that should allow him to hold up against the rigors of a full starter’s workload. He’s also worked to tweak the mechanics in his lower half in order to achieve a more consistent movement profile on his fastball.
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https://blogs.fangraphs.com/cleveland-g ... ects-2024/

10. Robert Arias, CF
Signed: International Signing Period, 2024 from Dominican Republic (CLE)
Age 17.6 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
25/70 30/40 20/45 55/55 40/50 50

The Guardians always seem to have prospects who qualify as high-probability hitters atop their international signing class, and Arias is the most recent. Teams that manually track swings decisions and rates of squared-up contact in the international space indicate Arias’ performance is very special. The lefty-hitting outfield prospect seems to sear line drives all over the place despite a somewhat odd-looking swing. If you look past his choppy, downward cut, Arias checks all the boxes. He runs well, his broad-shouldered frame is very projectable, and he tracks pitches as if his eyes are fitted with some kind of baseball-seeking laser. He also makes flush, loud contact with remarkable consistency. There are scouts who think Arias needs to get much stronger, and others who view the way he’s performed despite a lack of strength as encouraging. I am mostly in the latter camp. Arias’ feel for the barrel is quite special and he could be a table-setting center fielder even if he fails to develop power. He was one of my top 2024 international amatuer prospects. He signed for $1.9 million in January and will begin his career in the DSL this summer.
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Juan Flores, C, Angels: Flores is the youngest player not only in the California League, but also the youngest player in all of Low-A. So far, he doesn’t seem to mind facing exclusively older competition. The young backstop continued his early trend in a matinee on Wednesday, going 2-for-3 with a double and a walk against Rancho Cucamonga. For the season, Flores is 12-for-35 with four doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs.
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10. Niko Kavadas, 1B, Red Sox
Team: Triple-A Worcester (International)
Age: 25

Why He’s Here: .500/.591/1.056 (9-for-18), 5 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 4 RBIs, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0-for-0 SB

The Scoop: While Kavadas’ college exploits at Notre Dame pale in comparison to the home run totals of recent years, the Red Sox first baseman has always shown a knack for finding the barrel. Last week at Buffalo, Kavadas continued his assault on the International League. He collected hits in all six games he played in and had home runs in three separate games. Kavadas is currently hitting .319/.467/.702 with nine home runs and an 18% walk rate across 32 games. With the Red Sox trying a variety of options at first base due to the injury to Triston Casas, could Kavadas find his way to the majors this summer? (GP)
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From the Athletic:

Tier 1: Moving on up
Brandon Sproat, RHP
Current assignment: Double-A Binghamton
Keith Law rank: 13th on team Top 20

The Mets love what they have in Sproat, who got bumped up to Binghamton a few days ago. With Brooklyn, walks were sometimes an issue for Sproat. But in his last couple of appearances, evaluators said, he showed a really good feel for all of his pitches, demonstrated the ability to land any pitch and got swings-and-misses on everything from his arsenal. The Mets drafted Sproat last year (for the second straight year after failing to sign him in 2022), but as a 23-year-old, he could continue to rise quickly.
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We’re leading off the Prospect Report in slightly different fashion today, because Baseball America’s Josh Norris was on hand last night to see an exceptionally dominant performance from Red Sox RHP Luis Perales. The 21-year-old righty struck out 12 and elicited 26 whiffs over five innings and 81 pitches, using a four-seam fastball, cutter, slider and changeup to quickly and ruthlessly send hitter after hitter back to the bench.

Perales touched 99 mph and tied his career high in strikeouts. You can see all the whiffs below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XJc3Xzdr3g
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https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories ... t-5-21-24/

10. Chase Petty, RHP, Reds
Team: Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)
Age: 21

Why He’s Here: 2-0, 1.80, 2 GS, 10 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 14 SO

The Scoop: Petty regained the near triple-digit fastball velocity he’d shown in high school, sitting 95-96 mph this year as compared to the 92-93 mph he sat last season. But in April, his regained stuff kept getting tattooed. He finished the month with a .352 opponents average and a 9.52 ERA. This month, he’s turned a corner. Opponents are hitting .197 this month against him and he’s gone 4-0, 1.80. He’s throwing a few more strikes, and he’s falling behind in counts less often, but mainly he’s once again squelching hard contact. Petty gave up 11 extra-base hits in April (seven doubles, one triple and three home runs). He’s given up three doubles and no other extra-base hits this month, which is much more in line with last year, where he gave up only 10 doubles, two triples and no home runs all season. (JC)
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