South Atlantic League (Sally) Prospects To Watch

Triston Casas - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

The following is a list of players that I’m very excited to write reports about this season in the ‘Sally.’ First off I won’t see all these guys, probably in my estimation, more like 50-60% of them. Basically this is a list of guys that are on the teams that will be playing some games in Lakewood during the regular season. There are a few teams that I won’t be able to see this year because they don’t come to Lakewood. Columbia (Mets), Asheville (Rockies), and Augusta (Giants) are the affiliates that I won’t see in person. However, I will occasionally post notes for prospects on those teams as well. These prospects are grouped by team but are in no order within those groups.

Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies)

Alec Bohm, 3B
Some in the industry are saying that Alec Bohm will follow the Adam Haseley route, skipping Lakewood and heading straight for the FSL. I’m praying that this doesn’t happen and I still have some hope. First off, there is a new guy in charge in the Phillies player development department. We are yet to determine whether or not Josh Bonifay’s approach to moving players along differs from that of the former farm director Joe Jordan, who departed the organization in October. The other glimmer of hope for me is the fact that Bohm didn’t get many at bats in the pros last season, and when he did he really struggled. He is also arguably more raw than Haseley was prior to the start of their respective first full pro seasons. Come on Phillies, all I’m asking for is one game!

Luis Garcia, SS (PHI)
Unlike Bohm, I’m confident I’ll get a few looks at Garcia this season. He may even spend close to the entire season in Lakewood and I’m very happy about this. There’s been a great deal of hype around the tooled-up young shortstop this offseason.

Franklin Morales, RHP
Morales has big upside and I’m eager to get my first look at him this spring. Here is a quick preview on Morales’ 2019 season from our Phillies correspondent Tony Bps: “The young right-hander should open the season at Lakewood after an inconsistent year in WIlliamsport (A-) last year. Morales is overpowering at times and will look to improve his command this year.”

Rafael Marchan, C
Marchan is a guy I’m pretty unfamiliar with. He’s only had 196 at bats above complex ball so far. Here’s Tony again, on the young catcher who just turned 20, comparing him to another catcher who spent 2018 with the BlueClaws: “Marchan is just one of many solid catching prospects in the system. He should team up with Rodolfo Duran to form nice duo behind the plate. While Duran is more power oriented, Marchan has better defensive skills with a better hit-tool.”

Colton Eastman, RHP
Eastman is a right-hander out of Cal State Fullerton who is relatively advanced for a college arm. He has a good shot at being a candidate for the Phillies rotation within a couple of years. He will presumably start in the Lakewood rotation with a chance to get out of there quickly.

Logan O’Hoppe, C
O’Hoppe will be another catcher with the BlueClaws this year. It remains to be seen how the Phillies organization decides to utilize him and Marchan. O’Hoppe is pretty solid defensively.

West Virginia Power (Mariners)

Jarred Kelenic, OF
As a Mets fan I was admittedly disappointed when Brodie Van Wagenen sent Kelenic to the Mariners in the December blockbuster for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Though at the same time I was also happy with it because I’d have a shot at seeing him this year. This will be the Mariners’ inaugural season in the SAL after acquiring the West Virginia affiliate from the Pirates. WV will be in town late April, and I think there’s a pretty good shot that Kelenic is on the team then. I’ll hopefully be able get over there and get a look at him.

Julio Rodriguez, OF
While he comes with plenty of risk, Rodriguez has massive upside and has a chance to be a superstar in the Mariners outfield one day. Luckily for me, this year, he may be in the same outfield as Jarred Kelenic for the West Virginia Power.

Logan Gilbert, RHP
Gilbert was drafted 14th overall last June out of Stetson, a huge part of the Hatters’ Cinderella run to super regionals. It remains to be seen whether Gilbert will begin the season with West Virginia in the SAL, or in the High-A California League. It will be important for Gilbert to regain and maintain the fastball velocity he possessed prior to his junior season. I have heard good reports on him from his pro debut last summer.

Hagerstown Suns (Nationals)

Mason Denaburg, RHP
The right-hander, and 2018 first-round pick, can reach back for high 90’s heat while maintaining an athletic delivery. I expect Denaburg to spend at least some time with the Hagerstown Suns in 2019. Hagerstown comes to my neck of the woods often.

Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)

Grayson Rodriguez, RHP
Same as Denaburg, Rodriguez, the 11th pick in last years draft, might even start the season in A ball. He’s 6’5″ 220 lbs with middle to front of the rotation stuff.

Blaine Knight, RHP
As a big college baseball fan, Blaine is a guy I’m very familiar with. He was a rock in the Arkansas Razorbacks rotation for a couple of years, coming through in countless big games. Knight then helped them get to the College World Series Finals last year, as their ace. Hopefully he’ll put on a bit of weight and add some velo to his already impressive arsenal. He may join the Orioles South Atlantic League affiliate, or leapfrog to the Carolina League, as an experienced SEC Friday night starter.

Adam Hall, SS
Hall will likely be the shortstop on this Delmarva Shorebirds squad. He is a solid defender, with a bat that’s still developing.

Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees)

Anthony Seigler, C
Seigler is a very intriguing prospect. The catcher is not only a switch hitter, but he was a switch-pitcher in high school. The Yankees drafted him in the first round last year, after being tied to him all season in draft talks. He is a terrific defensive catcher and he should be in the Sally by the time Charleston comes here in late July.

Roansy Contreras, RHP
Contreras is the most likely of this Yankees group to start the season in Charleston. He closed out 2018 down there and is one of the many very talented young arms in the Yankees system.

Everson Pereira, OF
Pereira is known as a well-rounded young OF prospect without one standout tool but instead 5 pretty good ones. He will turn 18 just a couple of days after opening day, so he would be one of the youngest players in the SAL. It would surprise me if he opens with the RiverDogs, but maybe by the time they get to me, he’ll be there.

Clarke Schmidt, RHP
Schmidt was the Yankees first rounder in 2017 out of the University of South Carolina. Cashman drafted Schmidt under the pretense that he would undergo TJS and would miss over a year of game action. He had 23 IP last year across rookie ball and the New York-Penn League. Due to him being a first round SEC arm I don’t see him spending too much time in Low-A ball. Many expect him move up to Tampa rather quickly.

Luis Medina, RHP
I probably won’t be able to see all these Yankees guys, especially not all the pitchers. However, Medina may establish himself as the arm that I have to target in this series. I’m unsure what they’ll do with Medina this season but I think he’ll get at least some action in Charleston.

Oswald Peraza, SS
Peraza was born in 2000. After 140 AB’s in the Appalachian League, he might be on track to head to full season ball.

Greenville Drive (Red Sox)

Jay Groome, RHP
Groome was a first round pick by the Sox in 2016 out of Barnegat HS in NJ. He’s recovering from Tommy John Surgery and should be back sometime around mid-season, likely with Greenville. They come to Lakewood in late July.

Triston Casas, 1B/3B
Casas was the Red Sox first rounder in this past draft. He’s a large-bodied corner infielder who is likely first basemen in the future. If he stays healthy he should be playing for the Greenville Drive in July.

Antoni Flores, SS
Flores will be 18 years old all season. The Venezuelan shortstop ranks 8th in Scott Greene’s Red Sox top 50 list, and could rocket up to top 100 lists by this time next year. Maybe they’ll keep him at the complex all spring and send him to the New York Penn League in June. It’s possible that I see him in the Sally in July but I’d say pretty unlikely.

Jarren Duran, 2B
Duran impressed many with the bat last summer after being picked in the 7th round out of Long Beach State. He had 128 AB’s with the Drive, and I think he’ll stick with them for at least a portion of this season.

Brandon Howlett, 3B
Howlett might be a good deep sleeper for the dynasty players out there. The 21st round pick out of high school showed loud tools with the bat in the GCL. He then finished the season with Lowell, playing in 5 games.

Rome Braves (Braves)

CJ Alexander, 3B
Rome certainly won’t be as prospect-stacked as they were last season, but the 6’5” third basemen has the potential to be a guy that’ll make me mark the dates on my calendar when the Braves are coming to town.

Trey Riley, RHP
The Braves drafted Riley out of a midwest JuCo in 2018. He’s risky, but if he starts throwing strikes, his stuff will work.

Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP
De La Cruz is 21 and has only made 13 starts above rookie ball. So while he’s a bit behind many others at his level, he has the ceiling of a back-end reliever. He may return to Rome, and I’ll be watching to see if the Braves eventually move him to the pen.

Hickory Crawdads (Rangers)

Hans Crouse, RHP
From all reports I’ve seen, Hans is a unique pitcher and lots of fun to watch. If all goes as planned I should get to do just that on opening weekend. Here’s Jake Berry, who covers the Rangers for us on Crouse and the Hickory Crawdads: “The Crawdads may have one of the best rosters in the 2019 South Atlantic League and it all starts with what should be a pretty stacked pitching staff headed up by the Rangers 2017 second round pick, Hans Crouse. Crouse got a taste of Hickory in 2018, but I still think he will spend a bit of time in a Crawdads uniform to start 2019. The repertoire is electric with a blazing fastball, but the California native is a fan favorite thanks more to his fiery personality and competitive makeup.”

Cole Winn, RHP
Rangers correspondent Jake Berry: “The jury is still out on where Cole Winn will start the season as the Rangers have implemented their first year program for newly drafted prep arms. While an extended spring until Rookie ball isn’t out of the question, I think the Rangers would be doing the 2018 first rounder a disservice if they didn’t trot him to Hickory at some point in 2019. It is well-documented that the Rangers will be more patient with their young arms, but Crawdads fans have an exciting young pitcher with a nice four pitch mix to look forward to. Winn is a high spin rate guy with each of his offerings and will bring more swing and miss as he continues to develop his changeup.”

Julio Pablo Martinez, OF
Jake Berry said “JPM turns 23 this month and may fly through the system starting in the 2019 campaign. A former star in the Cuban National Series, the 5’9 lefty swinger spent 2018 in Short-Season Spokane before rounding out the year with an impressive, albeit short, stint in the Arizona Fall League. The outfield is relatively packed in the Rangers system, but JPM may be the first of the group to make it to the majors. He projects to be an above average hitter with some pop thanks to good bat speed and path. Perhaps the top tool, his speed, should allow him to take an extra base here and there as well. He does cover a decent amount of ground in the outfield and while he could play center, I don’t think he will thanks to other talent in the system.”

Jonathan Ornelas, SS
Jon Daniels took Ornelas in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft out of high school. Ornelas is a shortstop as of now but may eventually wind up elsewhere in the infield. He will probably be assigned to the South Atlantic League when the Rangers break camp.

Pedro Gonzalez, OF
Gonzalez is great with the glove out in CF, but struggled at the plate in 371 PA’s with Hickory last season. He might return there in 2019.

Lexington Legends (Royals)

Austin Cox, LHP
Lexington was stacked last year with prospects that helped them win the South Atlantic League championship. That group moves up to Wilmington now and Cox will be one of the headliners on a team that isn’t nearly as attractive from a prospect standpoint as last season. However, that doesn’t take away from Cox being a very exciting left-handed pitching prospect with great stuff. He needs to work on command and refining his delivery.

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Pirates)

Travis Swaggerty, OF
I have a feeling the Pirates’ 1st rounder will be pushed up to Bradenton early this season. He may even start the season there. But we’ll see if he’s with the Grasshoppers when they come to NJ in May. If so, I’ll be there. He’s definitely a guy that Pirates fans should be excited about.

Steven Jennings, RHP
The Pirates’ 2nd round pick from 2017 will be 20 years old all season. He will spend a big chunk of that season in the Sally. Jennings also played football at his high school in Tennessee, as their quarterback. Scouts point to his solid command and the ability to rely on his entire 4 pitch arsenal.

Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox)

Bryce Bush, 3B
Bush will be 19 for the entire 2019 season. He’s known for having good bat speed and strength, and could be one of the headliners on the Intimidators.

Konnor Pilkington, RHP
Pilk is another guy with plenty of SEC starting experience. He was the Friday night starter for Mississippi State last year in their run to Omaha. He’ll run his fastball into the mid 90’s along with a mid 70’s curve that has good depth. I don’t expect Pilkington to be in the Sally for long, and transitioning from the SEC to Low-A, he’ll be expected to get guys out.

The Others:

As for the other 3 teams I likely won’t be seeing, here are some guys some names to look for:
Columbia Fireflies (Mets): SS Ronny Mauricio, 3B Mark Vientos, SS Shervyen Newton, OF Ross Adolph, RHP Tylor Megill
Asheville Tourists (Rockies): RHP Riley Pint, 1B Grant Lavigne,  LHP Ryan Rolison, SS Terrin Vavra, RHP Mike Nikorak
Augusta GreenJackets (Giants): OF Alexander Canario, RHP Gregory Santos, RHP Jake Wong, RHP Juan De Paula
To learn more about these players, I highly recommend reading the great work our writers have done here this offseason including each organization’s Top 50 prospects top 50 prospects lists for each organization which our team here at Prospects1500 has worked incredibly hard on.

Owen Surett covers the South Atlantic League for Prospects1500. Owen is an enthusiast of baseball at all competition levels from college/MLB Draft, to all levels of the minor leagues and MLB. He is an avid fan of the New York Mets and West Virginia Mountaineers. His springs and summers revolve around going to as many baseball games as possible, seeing prospects, and writing scouting reports. He is from New Jersey and regularly attends minor league games in Lakewood (Phillies A) and Trenton (Yankees AA). You can follow him on Twitter @CountryRoads277.

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