Top Prospects Impress in Cactus League

Bobby Witt, Jr.
Bobby Witt, Jr. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

I spent a week out in Arizona this year watching the Cactus League, and while things were different from crowd capacity to fan and media access, I was still able to see some of the league’s top prospects. Even though most prospects lost a year’s worth of development due to no minor league season in 2020, most of the top prospects were at their team’s alternate training site and actually didn’t look like they missed a step. In fact, I would argue that many received advanced training and experience being around the major league players and staff and that they benefited greatly from the experience. Here’s a look at the top prospects who looked great at Spring Training.

Bobby Witt Jr, SS – Kansas City

Coming into Spring Training, I had heard the hype, but I had yet to see Bobby Witt, Jr play. It seems his reputation precedes him as he turned heads during both at bats in an away game that I attended. So many people popped out of their seats to take photos (myself included) that the ushers felt the need to ask us all to sit down. (C’mon usher, don’t you know who that is?) That’s a lot of hype for someone who only has 43 professional at bats. Witt Jr. was sent to minor league camp a week ago, and while he has the talent to make an impact now, he’s still young and could benefit from some more reps. Oh, and then there’s that pesky service time clock that seems to hold players back too.

Bobby Witt, Jr.
Bobby Witt, Jr. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

CJ Abrams, SS – Padres

Even though it felt like the Padres mortgaged the farm over the last year by trading away top talent like Luis Patiño, Taylor Trammell and Ty France, they are still stacked with talent. Leading the charge is infielder CJ Abrams who the Padres took a good look at this spring with 47 at bats. He made the most of his at bats by plating 11 with his 12 hits. With no at bats above Low-A, he’ll need more time in the minors. How much time he’ll need will be interesting since the Padres tend to advance their top prospects quickly.

CJ Abrams
CJ Abrams. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

Tucupita Marcano, 2B – Padres

While most of the talk seems to be about CJ Abrams, don’t sleep on this guy. The Padres have a plethora of infielders and two that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon in Tatis Jr and Machado. Throw in Cronenworth and you’ve got an embarrassment of riches. Marcano lit up Spring Training to the tune of .417, 6 runs, and 8 RBIs. Abrams and Marcano might not quite be ready yet, but they’ll make a solid infield up the middle for any team for quite some time.

Tucupita Marcano
Tucupita Marcano. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

Jarred Kelenic, LF/Julio Rodriguez, RF – Mariners

Do not fret Mariners fans, help is on the way. I’d like to feature five guys here (Kelenic, Rodriguez, Trammell, France, Raleigh), but we’ll focus on top two likely to make the biggest impact. Both had great springs hitting over .300. (Shout out to Ty France who had numbers that matched Corey Seager’s torrid spring.) Both Kelenic and Rodriguez were assigned to minor league camp, but expect Kelenic to be called up soon. He had an injury mid-spring that shut him down for a few weeks. Rodriguez needs more time to develop, but his arrival will be most welcomed by Mariner fans and baseball fans alike. He’s a charismatic star in the making.

Julio Rodriguez
Julio Rodriguez. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

Keibert Ruiz, C – Dodgers

Ruiz arrived late to camp due to visa issues, but don’t let that dimmish his performance. He only has 4 at bats at big league camp, but he made the most of them going 4 for 4 with 5 RBI. Given the chance, this kid is going to shine. Problem is, the Dodgers have nowhere to put him. With Will Smith and Austin Barnes (Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher) signed through at least the end of next year, his chances for regular playing time are slim, barring an injury. With Diego Cartaya right behind Ruiz, the Dodgers have some great catching depth.

Keibert Ruiz
Keibert Ruiz. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

Jonathan India, 2B – Reds

Could it be that Jonathan India is finally ready to make his major league debut? Poor performance kept him from turning heads in the AFL in 2019, but he bounced back in 2020 at the alternate training site showing that he was still a contender. That success carried into Spring Training and India has been getting the nod at second base. (.333, 3 HR, 7 RBI) With the release of Dee Strange-Gordon, it seems likely we’ll see India on the Opening Day roster.

Jonathan India
Jonathan India. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @1baseball_gail.

Honorable Mention – Grapefruit League

Jazz Chisholm, 2B – Marlins

The focus of this article was on the Cactus League, but I have a soft spot for a former Cactus Leaguer who had a great spring out in Florida. He had the opportunity to get a taste of the MLB last year, but this year I really hope he gets a chance to shine. He batted .268 with 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 SB, and no doubt impressed the Marlins, so much so as I was writing this article, Kim Ng named Chisholm the starting second baseman. Congrats, Jazz! Chisholm is a must watch player: charismatic, energetic, dynamic, and exciting. Like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Julio Rodríguez, he’s one of the bright, young stars of the game!

Note: All stats as of games played through 3/27/21.

Gail is Bay Area born and raised. She was conflicted on which side of the Bay to root for early on, but eventually made the right choice and sided with the A’s. Gail now lives in Southern California and enjoys travelling around the country watching as many baseball games as she can. Follow her on Twitter @1baseball_gail.

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