While we continue to wait for a baseball in the States, we take a look back at the top prospects from the SALLY League in 2019 and where they will likely go next.
Obviously, a Minor League Baseball season in 2020 seems unlikely at this point and that could have far-reaching effects on the lower levels of baseball.
The MLB Draft will be shortened to just 5 rounds, which will helps reduce the roster sizes. But you have to wonder how teams will handle players who could seemingly be missing a year of development.
Will they rush them up to the higher levels anyway, or will they start them back in Single-A and aggressively promote them once they’ve gotten back up to speed?
There is still so much to figure out. But at this time, I wanted to stop and take a look at the top prospects from the SALLY League going into the 2019 season and where they will likely end up when play resumes.
Perhaps some of them could even find themselves on an expanded major league roster in 2020?
I’ll be basing this off the article that Owen Surett wrote before the 2019 season — South Atlantic League (Sally) Prospects to Watch.
Alec Bohm, 3B – For anyone playing MLB The Show a ton during this shutdown like I have, you know how hyped people are on Bohm. He was the featured Future Stars player in a recent event and is a very good player in the game.
He’s also a very good player in real life. The Phillies’ top prospect played just 22 games in the Sally League last year before getting called up. He hit .367 with 3 home runs during that time. Bohm, a third baseman, ended the 2019 season in Double-A where he hit .269 with 14 home runs in 63 games.
At 23-years-old, this is certainly one prospects from the Sally League last year who could find his way onto an expanded major league roster in 2020. But in all likelihood, he’ll go back to Double-A when player resumes.
Luis Garcia, SS – It was not a good showing for Garcia at Lakewood last year as he hit .186 in 467 at-bats with 4 home runs and 132 strikeouts. I would not be surprised if he’s one of those players that gets a repeat performance in the Sally League.
Franklin Morales, RHP – The 20-year-old Morales spent all of 2019 in Lakewood where he somehow had a 1-8 record despite pitching really well with a 3.82 ERA in 96.2 innings with 129 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.32. The second-best pitching prospect in the Phillies’ organization was set to start the 2020 season in Clearwater and I think that remains the plan when play resumes.
Rafael Marchan, C – The Phillies’ top catching prospect hit .271 with a .347 OBP in 63 Sally League games last year. He doesn’t have a ton of pop (none, actually as he has zero home runs as a professional), but he’s solid defensively and is a good hitter despite not having any power. He finished 2019 at High-A, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the 21-year-old switch-hitter moved up to Double-A.
Colton Eastman, RHP – Eastman is somebody I’m very familiar being someone who follows the college game very closely. We didn’t get much time with him in the Sally League last year as he made just three starts before getting called up. He finished the year in Double-A, and being a college guy who will turn 24 later this year and is a workhorse on the mound, he’s someone who could be on a shortlist of players to be activated in a pinch for the Phillies in a shortened 2020 season.
Jarred Kelenic, OF – The Mariners top overall prospect tore through the Sally League in 2019 hitting .309 with 11 home runs in 50 games before being promoted. He finished the year in Double-A and the soon-to-be 21-year-old is not far from making his Major League debut. But the Mariners have no reason to push him, so it’s likely he we see him at the big league level in 2021.
Julio Rodriguez, OF – Another Mariners prospect that had a great time in the Sally League in 2019 as he hit .293 with 10 home runs in 67 games. He only made it as high as High-A though and will likely be placed in Double-A when Minor League Baseball returns as he’s a year younger than Kelenic.
Logan Gilbert, RHP – In his first season of pro ball, right-handed pitcher Gilbert dazzled with a 1.59 ERA in 5 Sally League starts. The Mariners moved him all the way up to Double-A in 2019 where he had a 2.88 ERA in 50 innings (9 starts) with 56 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.98. As a college guy who is 23, it won’t take long for Gilbert to get a shot in the big leagues.
Mason Denaburg, RHP – Even though he made our preseason list of prospects to watch in 2019, the Nationals former first-round pick never made it to the Sally League. Instead, he spent all of 2019 in Rookie ball where he posted a 7.52 ERA in 20.1 innings. That means there is a good chance we see the 20-year-old make his debut in the Sally League when play resumes.
Grayson Rodriguez, RHP – One of the best starting pitchers in the Sally League in 2019, Rodriguez posted a 2.68 ERA in 94 innings with 129 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.99. The Orioles are desperate for pitching at the Major League level, but they’ll take their time with the 20-year-old. He’ll likely start out in High-A when play resumes but could move up quickly if he continues to dominate like he did in 2019 with the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Blaine Knight, RHP – It was a quick stint for Knight in the Sally League as he made just 5 starts, but he went 3-0 in those starts with a 0.68 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. Perhaps the Orioles pushed him too quickly as he struggled at the next level with a 6.13 ERA in 83.2 innings with just 56 strikeouts. Knight will most likely need to repeat High-A before moving up to Double-A. But with 2020 likely being a lost year I seriously doubt they’d start the college arm back in the Sally League.
Adam Hall, SS – A second-round pick back in 2017, Hall spent all of 2019 with the Shorebirds and hit a solid .298 with 78 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 122 games. He’ll most likely move on to High-A when play resumes and could even be skipped up to Double-A if needed there with his middle-infield versatility.
Anthony Seigler, C – It was a disappointing 2019 for the Yankees top catching prospect as he hit just .175 in 30 games with the Charleston River Dogs. We could see the young catcher repeat the Sally League when play resumes.
Roansy Contreras, RHP – Contreras led the Sally League in 2019 with 12 wins to go along with a sparkling 3.33 ERA in 132.1 innings with 113 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.07. Contreras will most definitely move up to High-A when play returns if not Double-A.
Everson Pereira, OF – Pereira never actually made it to the Sally League last year playing just 18 games in short-season ball because of injuries and hitting .171. He’s still just 19 and there is a good chance we get to see him with Charleston when play resumes.
Clarke Schmidt, RHP – I’ve loved Schmidt for a while now and thought he was a steal at 16th overall in the 2017 MLB Draft by the Yankees. He hasn’t disappointed with two solid seasons in professional ball. He posted a 3.84 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) in the Sally League last year with 69 strikeouts in 63.1 innings. He finished the year making three starts in Double-A and he’s someone who could get a shot at the big league level in 2020 on an expanded roster.
Luis Medina, RHP – The big arm of Medina struck out 115 batters in 93 innings last year with Charleston, but he also walked 67 batters, which helped him rack up a high ERA of 6.00. Still, he got a shot at High-A to end the season and pitched well. He’ll likely go back there.
Oswald Peraza, SS – The Yankees top infield prospect was pretty impressive in the Sally League last year hitting .273 in 46 games with 31 runs scored, 5 doubles, 2 home runs, and 18 stolen bases. It’s possible the 20-year-old gets a repeat performance in the Sally League when play resumes, but he’ll most likely make the move up to High-A.
Jay Groome, RHP – Groome actually skipped the Sally League in 2019 after coming back from Tommy John surgery. He pitched just 4 innings last year, but it looks like the Red Sox are anxious to see what the former first-round pick can do so I’d imagine he goes back to Double-A when play resumes.
Triston Casas, 1B/3B – The Red Sox first-round pick from 2018 was tied for the third-most home runs in the Sally League in 2019 with 19 to go along with a .254 average. He got a late call-up to High-A and that’s probably where he returns.
Antoni Flores, SS – The 19-year-old never made it to Greenville last year as he struggled with the Red Sox short-season affiliate hitting just .193 in 181 at-bats. There’s a good chance we see him in the Sally League when play resumes.
Jarren Duran, 2B – Duran lit up the Sally League in 2019 hitting .387 with 4 home runs in 199 at-bats before getting promoted to Double-A. That’s most likely where the 23-year-old will be placed again.
Brandon Howlett, 3B – A 21st round pick in 2018, Howlett had an impressive debut in 2018. But things didn’t go quite as well in Greenville last year as he hit just .231 in 390 at-bats with 8 home runs. The 20-year-old could get a repeat performance in the Sally League, but my guess is they’ll start him out at High-A when things pick back up.
CJ Alexander, 3B – Unfortunately, CJ skipped Rome and that may have been a mistake by the Braves as he struggled mightily at both High-A and Double-A last year. At 24 it’s not likely we see him go all the back down to Single-A. The Braves need to know what they’ve got with him quickly.
Trey Riley, RHP – A fifth-round pick in 2018, Riley struggled in the Sally League last year posting a 7.67 ERA in 58.2 innings (17 games, 12 starts) with 41 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.99. Despite that, I’d guess the 22-year-old likely starts back in High-A.
Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP – De La Cruz had a big year across three levels for the Braves. He started out in Rome and posted a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings with 22 strikeouts. Then he had a 1.93 ERA in four starts at High-A and a 3.83 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) at Double-A with 73 strikeouts in 87 innings. He’s someone that could find himself on an expanded roster or taxi squad for the Braves in 2020.
Hans Crouse, RHP – After pitching 16.2 innings in the Sally League in 2018, Crouse spent all of 2019 there and posted a 4.41 ERA in 87.2 innings with 76 strikeouts and a 1.20 WHIP. The 21-year-old and former second-round pick will likely starter out in High-A when play resumes.
Cole Winn, RHP – The Rangers 2018 first-round pick had a solid 2019 season in the Sally League posting a 4.46 ERA in 68.2 innings with 65 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.43. Even though he’s still just 20, I doubt he’ll make a repeat performance in the Sally League. He’ll most likely start back at High-A.
Julio Martinez, OF – The 24-year-old Cuban outfielder played just 10 games in the Sally League last year before getting promoted to High-A where he hit .248 with 14 home runs in 113 games. He even got a few at-bats in spring training with the Rangers before the shutdown this year.
Jonthan Ornelas, SS – A third-round pick in 2018, Ornelas hit .257 with 6 home runs in 113 games in the Sally League last year. It’s possibly the 20-year-old starts back in the Sally League when play resumes, but most likely they’ll place him in High-A.
Pedro Gonzalez, OF – The young outfielder from the Dominican Republic has spent the past two seasons in the Sally League. In 2019 he hit .248 and was tied for the most home runs in the league with 23. I doubt he’ll see the Sally League for a third straight year.
Austin Cox, LHP – The Royals fifth-round pick in 2018 had a monster 2019 season posting an ERA of 2.76 in 130.2 innings with 129 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.15. He started out in the Sally League where he had a 2.75 ERA in 75.1 innings with 77 strikeouts before getting called up to High-A. The former Mercer University standout will likely start out in Double-A when play resumes and might not be far from the big leagues if he can follow-up that 2019 performance at the higher levels.
Travis Swaggerty, OF – Despite a poor showing in the Sally League during his first professional season, the Pirates decided to start him out in High-A in 2019. There he hit .265 with 9 home runs in 121 games. I’m sure Pittsburgh would love to see a little more power from the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft. But they’ll be aggressive with the former college bat.
Steven Jennings, RHP – It was a solid 2019 for the former second-round pick as he posted a 4.71 ERA with Greensboro striking out 115 batters in 130 innings. He’ll certainly get a promotion when play resumes, most likely High-A.
Bryce Bush, 3B – A 33nd round pick in 2018, Bush played all of 2019 at just 19 years old and struggled a bit in the Sally League hitting .201 with 5 home runs in 67 games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to the Sally League.
Konnor Pilkington, RHP – The former Mississippi State standout and left-hander hurler dominated the Sally League over six starts in 2019 with a 1.62 ERA in 33.1 innings with 42 strikeouts. Things didn’t go quite as smoothly in High-A when he was called up posting a 4.99 ERA in 95.2 innings with 96 strikeouts. But I’d guess the former college arm with good upside starts back at Double-A.