We are officially two months into the 2023 Minor League Baseball season.
For the affiliates, success on a team basis is not as important as individual development, but win-loss record still tells a story of overall performance and talent at the level.
The Rochester Red Wings - the Triple-A affiliate - for better or, in this case, for worse are exactly as advertised. They are 9th in the International League East at 22-27 and do not have many bright spots outside of Darren Baker and recent promotion Drew Millas.
Millas - the organization's No. 29 prospect according to MLB Pipeline - has come into his own at the plate after struggling with consistency in Double-A and High-A last season. To start 2023, the backstop had a whopping 174 wRC+ to go along with a .991 OPS for Double-A Harrisburg, good enough to earn him a promotion on May 22nd.
Outside of Millas and Baker, the Red Wings have three Top 30 prospects on the roster, and a fourth on the way.
By now I'm sure you're familiar with Jake Alu, the organization's 26th ranked prospect. Alu spent some time with the Nationals providing a solid bat and positional versatility, but was sent back to Rochester after Corey Dickerson returned from the Injured List. It will be interesting to see the roles that open up after the trade deadline.
Southpaws Jose Ferrer - 25th ranked prospect - and Matt Cronin - 20th ranked prospect - have not shown the same electricity out of the bullpen they did in lower levels. While both have struggled, Cronin's stuff of late is more worrisome than Ferrer's.
The prospect on the way is another arm in Cole Henry, the organization's 12th ranked prospect. Henry's made three rehab starts on the road back from Thoracic Outlet Surgery and so far, his electricity is still there. Much about TOS is still unknown, so his early success is a comforting sign.
A name to watch in upstate New York is Amos Willingham. The 2019 17th rounder earned a promotion after logging 10 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Double-A. Willingham's stuff plays out of the pen and he throws consistent strikes.
Following yesterday's promotion of top-ranked prospect James Wood, there are four Top 30 prospects in Double-A Harrisburg. Even with Wood's promotion, the team is not overloaded with talent. Despite that, the team sits at 3rd place in the Eastern League Southwest with a solid 22-22 record.
Of the players who've spent the whole season in Harrisburg, the most noteworthy is Robert Hassell III, the second ranked prospect in the organization. Coming back from a broken hamate bone, Hassell started the season with Single-A Fredericksburg on rehab assignment. Since being reinstated, Bobby Barrels is slashing .279/.388/.372 with a 116 wRC+ through 103 plate appearances. He's done well showing off his hit, fielding, and speed tools, but power is still a question. Theoretically, it will come as he gains strength post-injury. He'll almost certainly end the season a level higher.
On the pitching end, Jackson Rutledge continues to impress. The former first rounder and 11th-ranked prospect holds a 3.18 ERA in eight starts for the Senators. Now 24 years old, this is a crucial year for Rutledge's development as he hadn't shown any consistency before this season. If all goes well, the 6-foot-8 righty will end the season in Rochester or even see a few innings out of the Nats pen.
Mitchell Parker's season has been rocky. The lefty starter struggled with command in previous years, but somehow managed to keep his run averages low and remain statistically effective. This season, Parker's command did not improve and he's failed to replicate his ability to get out of jams, making it difficult to pin down his future role in the organization.
This squad... is something else. With five (was six with Wood) Top 30 prospects and a handful of non-ranked standouts, the team is in a close race for the South Atlantic League North with 22-22 record.
Now that Wood is off the squad for the time being, the most notable performance of the season thus far comes from non-ranked Dustin Saenz, a lefty starter drafted in the fourth round. Saenz is second in the South Atlantic League for ERA (2.03) and fourth for FIP (3.04) among pitchers with at least 30 innings. The southpaw keeps impressing, expect him to follow Wood to Harrisburg soon.
Outside of Henry (rehabbing) and Andry Lara (who is still impossible to get a read on), the top prospects are all position players. From top to bottom this group is underperforming, but it's important to note that Wilmington's home park is statistically one of the hardest places in all of minor league baseball to hit.
Jeremy De La Rosa - 8th ranked prospect - had a slow start coming back from a broken hamate. Since May 6th, De La Rosa is 21-64 (.328) with a .888 OPS and 145 wRC+. He also cut his strikeout rate to 31.1% in that time, almost 9% lower than his K% for the full season.
TJ White broke into the organization's Top 10 in the offseason after a stellar season with Single-A Fredericksburg. Still only 19 years old, White has taken a step back to start the 2023 season. As a power hitter, this could be attributed to the difficulty of Wilmington's ballpark or real regression. It's hard to know for sure without exit velocities, expected stats, ballpark adjusted stats, etc. but it is not reassuring that he's striking out at a 32.3% clip.
Unfortunately, Trey Lipscomb and Jared McKenzie are in somewhat of the same boat. The only difference between them and White are their relatively high BABIPs (not a good thing for someone struggling to get on base).
The FredNats have a star-studded roster, but their pitching depth is lacking and it's apparent when examining their lack of success in the first month of the season. Their 17-25 record places them last in the Carolina League North.
With eight top prospects on the squad, there's an endless amount of data to go over. To put it simply, Roismar Quintana and Armando Cruz are performing - more or less - as expected through the first two months.
Jarlin Susana - 6th ranked prospect - is struggling to throw strikes consistently, but that's always been the scouting report on him. The 19-year-old flamethrower has a lot of development left before reaching his potential.
Brenner Cox, a 2022 draftee, is struggling hard but don't give up on him just yet. Cox is a should-be high school Senior with freakish tools and the less baseball experience than everyone else on the field due to his successful high school football career.
Brady House, Daylen Lile, and Jake Bennett - all Top 15 prospects - are killing it. Bennett is living up to the expectation of a polished left-handed starter. To the point where it feels like Single-A is just too easy for him. Expect a promotion very soon.
House, coming off a year full of injury and uncertainty, has a wRC+ of 150 through 127 plate appearances. To everyone's relief, it seems like the 2021 first rounder is settling into third base nicely. Lile missed all of 2022 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he's reminding everyone why he was a second round pick and scouted as a top high school bat leading up to the draft. Through 158 plate appearances he's slashing .286/.386/.436.
Then there's Elijah Green, the anomaly. Somehow the former first rounder is striking out at a 43% clip while maintaining a 109 wRC+. Obviously, strikeouts are a problem, but that's not news. Green is and always has been a project that will require patience. If you're looking for a positive about his season, he's swiped eighteen bags in twenty attempts and continues to crush it in center field.
The first two months are never the most fun, but a string of promotions should start any day now.
There's still a long way to go in the 2023 season.