After a cold and rainy April throughout the region, the High-A Midwest League has begun to heat up, both in terms of weather and prospect performance. While there are a number of impact-hitting prospects, the pitching has been equally impressive. So much so that I don’t have the time or space to write about every single pitcher that is intriguing through roughly the first two months of the season. So here are three standouts that I think have a chance to grow into significant pitching prospects as they work their way toward the upper levels, as well as some recent graduates and new faces.
Note: All stats are counted as of 5/27/22.
Antoine Kelly, 22, LHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Milwaukee Brewers)
Kelly, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound left-hander in the Brewers organization, has been mighty impressive in his 39.1 innings for High-A Wisconsin. The 22-year-old has shown lofty strikeout numbers, including a 12.1 K/9 backed up by a 17% swinging strike rate. He’s starting to round back into the pitcher he was prior to the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery he had in 2020 followed by inconsistency and command struggles in 2021. His fastball touches 98 and he has a potential true outpitch in his slider. Unfortunately, he hasn’t fully conquered his command/control issues, (4.4 BB/9) and his .244 BABIP and 69% strand% suggest he might be overperforming. However, DRA- grades him highly with a 65 scoring, despite the high walks. He might be more suited for a bullpen role in the future, but he’s shown no reason for the Brewers to take him out of the rotation just yet.
Antoine Kelly got 30 swings and misses en route to 13 Ks on Sunday 💨
Those 30 whiffs are the MOST by a minor league pitcher in one game this year, and the 6th-highest total in MiLB since 2017 pic.twitter.com/k744zVRiWz
— Brewers Player Development (@BrewersPD) May 23, 2022
Connor Phillips, 21, RHP, Dayton Dragons (Cincinnati Reds)
Phillips was the player to be named later in the trade that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to the Seattle Mariners just prior to the start of the season. The 21-year-old has helped balance out the trade with his performance at High-A Dayton, pitching to a 3.00 ERA, 2.52 FIP, and 60 DRA- (40% better than High-A average pitchers) through 36 IP. The Midwest League strikeout leader gets tons of strikeouts with his power arsenal, as evidenced by his 15.0 K/9 and 16.7% swinging-strike%. His fastball sits 95-97 with life and he’s also able to locate his slider and curveball for whiffs. He sports a near-league-leading 31.2% K-BB% thanks in part to his command and control gains this season, but there is still work to be done to keep limiting walks (4.0 BB/9). If he keeps improving the way he has, he’ll be working his way into top prospect lists in short order.
Here are all of #Reds RHP prospect Connor Phillips’ called strikes + whiffs from his 6IP, 4H, 1ER, 0BB, 13K performance yesterday for @DragonsBaseball. The 21yo had a terrific 46.6% CSW% on the day, and raised his K-BB% to 31.2% on the season #ATOBTTR #MidwestLeague pic.twitter.com/YnJDxinpzL
— Doug Otto (@hdouglasotto) May 21, 2022
Gavin Williams, 22, RHP, Lake County Captains (Cleveland Guardians)
Williams, the Cleveland Guardians’ 2021 1st-round pick, has been excelling at High-A to start his pro career. He has an absurd 13.4 K/9, 1.54 ERA, 1.88 FIP, and even 30% K-BB% in his first 35 IP. Clocking in at a massive 6-foot-6, 238-pound frame, he’s an imposing figure on the mound. His fastball sits in the high 90s and has touched 100 in the past, and he pairs it with a slider/curveball combo. He has yet to give up a home run on the year and induces a healthy amount of groundballs which helps him limit damage. Williams could take a massive jump with improvements to his walk rate (3.3 BB/9), but he seems well on his way to prospect notoriety already.
Distinguished Alumni (High-A stats):
There have been several exceptional pitchers who have already graduated from the Midwest League. It’s bittersweet to see them go, but it’s always fun to see how they handle the next challenge once they’re ready. These three pitchers proved they were ready for tougher competition after elite starts to the season.
Andrew Abbott, 22, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
27.0 IP, 0.67 ERA, 1.97 FIP, 13.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 32.0% K-BB%, 59 DRA-
Wilmer Flores, 21, RHP, Detroit Tigers
19.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 16.0 K/9, 0.92 BB/9, 42.9% K-BB%, 54 DRA-
Fastball as high as 95 mph. pic.twitter.com/JP1x0YnUIQ
— Dan Hasty 🎙 (@ThatDanHasty) May 13, 2022
Gordon Graceffo, 22, RHP, Peoria Chiefs (St. Louis Cardinals)
45.2 IP, 0.99 ERA, 1.79 FIP, 11.0 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, 31.5% K-BB%, 73 DRA-
Notable Newcomers (Debuts):
Here are a few young names who recently made their High-A debuts in 2022 in impressive fashion.
Noah Cameron, 22, LHP, Quad Cities River Bandits (Kansas City Royals)
4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K
— Kansas City Royals Player Development (@RoyalsPD) May 23, 2022
David Festa, 22, RHP, Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins)
4.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Chris Mokma, 21, RHP, Beloit Sky Carp (Miami Marlins)
4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Doug Otto is the High-A Central league correspondent and Arizona Diamondbacks correspondent for Prospects1500. He is an avid follower and consumer of prospect news, rankings, and data. He also has experience playing fantasy baseball, mostly in deep dynasty formats. When Doug isn’t researching prospects, he’s either watching movies or baking dessert. He can be found on Twitter at