There Is Spring Training For Some Players, Senior Circuit Edition

I will not the lack of a labor agreement get me down. Last week we looked at some guys who are semi-off-of-the-grid in the American League. Now it is time for me to have a look at the National League. To reiterate these are some top prospects mixed in with guys who I am interested in seeing how things work out for them during spring training and the season.

National League East
Atlanta Braves: Catcher Shea Langeliers could be the in-house replacement for Travis d’Arnaud as soon as the end of this season. He has to show he can hit enough to be an everyday guy, but he has big league ready catch and throw skills. Bryce Elder gives off the Greg Maddux vibes, but only to as a lesser version. He might become a back-end guy who sticks around longer than one thinks he might.
Miami Marlins: Khalil Watson is a ways off, but it will be great to see him against some advanced competition in spring camp. He looks like he will be able to really hit. He might make Jazz Chisolm Jr. redundant if he develops to expectations. Eury Perez has all of the makings of a front-line starter. He is big, throws hard, and has some command. Every organization needs prospects like this.
Philadelphia Phillies: Mick Abel was a first-round pick a couple of seasons ago. He is on the lanky side, but that hasn’t hurt the life on his fastball. His command comes and goes, but that is hardly a surprise given his age. Maybe he will be the next pitcher the Phillies can actually develop. Bryson Stott might make the Phillies tell Scott Kingery goodbye. He can field enough to play short and can handle second base if needed. He looks like an average regular, and there is value in that.
New York Mets: Francisco Alvarez is among the best catching prospects in baseball. A 20-year old with real power and solid enough defense behind the plate will allow the Mets to cut their losses with James McCann possibly as soon as the end of this year. JT Ginn is a Tommy John survivor who has become the Mets’ most valuable pitching prospect after the injury to Matt Allan. Ginn looks to be a major league arm who doesn’t wow you but carves out a role on the ball club.
Washington Nationals: Cade Cavalli is a big righthander from Oklahoma who throws hard. He led the minors in strikeouts, so there is that. If the season goes sideways for the Nationals this year then he could be in line for a promotion to the big leagues. Brady House was an impressive hitter in the bits I saw of him in high school. He is a big shortstop. I can see some Troy Tulowitzki in there with him, although hopefully with better health than Tulo.

National League Central
Chicago Cubs: Brennen Davis is the centerfielder of the very near future in Chicago. The is a lean guy who was more athlete than a baseball player, but the athleticism is starting to be harnessed into something exciting. He might be in the Eric Davis or Byron Buxton mold in terms of tools, hopefully, he has better fortune staying on the field. Braylin Marquez is a bit of the quintessential left-handed prospect in the sense he has good stuff and not-so-good command. He could be a Julio Urias or he could be a Jose Quintana; both have jobs, but only one is a star.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Oneil Cruz is a 6-7 shortstop and this isn’t a video game. He has top-of-the-charts power potential for the position. The long levers mean he will strike out a bit because the holes at the plate are so big. If the power plays then nothing else will matter. Quinn Priester is a former first-rounder who may be getting close to the majors, but he doesn’t look like a star, but more of a contributor. He lacks the premium stuff usually associated with top-end pitching prospects.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ethan Small doesn’t have killer upside, and is more of a pitchablilty guy. Current guys like Andrew Heaney and Doug Davis from back in the day made it work without throwing really hard. The Brewers develop pitching pretty well as evidenced by Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. Small could benefit from this system as well. Brice Turang can defend and has a good contact rate, but he will have to hit for power in order to be a real difference-maker on the major league level. At this point, he looks like a regular more than a superstar in the middle infield.
Cincinnati Reds: Elly De La Cruz can hit the ball far, throw the ball hard, and run really fast. He plays a bit like me on PlayStation in the sense he swings at just about everything. If he reigns that in then he has a chance to make it. Hunter Greene might be the hardest throwing pitcher anywhere ever. This is no exaggeration. I saw him hit 105 in a spring training game last year, and he was routinely hitting 104 during the season. The fastball can be a bit flat, but it reaches a certain velocity where life doesn’t matter. I have seen him since high school, so it is easy for me to want to see him succeed.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jordan Walker is big and hits the ball really hard. He is a bit of a ways off, but the raw ingredients are there for him to become a perennial all-star at either corner infield spot. He started striking out too much in A-ball but given he won’t be 20 until May means that can be overlooked. Matthew Liberatore was traded to St. Louis for Randy Arozarena, but all isn’t lost as he is showing he is a guy who can pitch off of his breaking balls. This unique skill could have him poised to be the Cardinals version of Clayton Kershaw in terms of style if you squint to see it, but no one can dream he will reach Kershaw’s level of success.

National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers: Bobby Miller has the stuff to join the Dodgers’ staff as another power right-hander. I wonder about his mechanics a bit from what I saw last season, but the stuff is there to be an impactful arm. If he can have just average command then he will help the ballclub as they move into their next phase. Miguel Vargas could be the third baseman in 2023. A natural inside-out swing with emerging pull power is intriguing.
San Diego Padres: CJ Abrams was a top-10 prospect going into last year. He broke his leg and missed basically all of the second half of last season. He won’t stay a shortstop due to a roadblock named Tatis, but he will show up somewhere else to let his top-end speed and good arm play. Mackenzie Gore is in a riddle inside of an enigma at this point. He got demoted from triple-A to instructional league after simply throwing strikes became a tall order. It is made or break time for him now.
San Francisco Giants: Marco Luciano was a monster in low-A ball, but didn’t look so hot in the Arizona Fall League. He looks like an all-star in the Miguel Tejada mold. He makes loud contact when he is right. He can be an indifferent defender at shortstop, but that is not out of the ordinary given his age and experience. Will Bednar was the College World Series Most Outstanding Player. He looks like a college right-hander who can get to the big leagues rather quickly, but I question if he can thrive beyond merely surviving because he lacks the loud stuff. I will not rule anything out since he has done it on a big stage already.
Colorado Rockies: Zac Veen is a hitter I have liked since he was drafted. The contact is loud and the in-game power is emerging. He is a solid prospect who gives me some Cody Bellinger vibes when I watch him hit. He will be the centerpiece of whatever the Rockies do going forward. Ryan Rolison is a pitchability left-hander. I am curious as to how his stuff will play in Denver due to the fact he pitches off his breaking balls and the thin air up there hates spin. He is similar to Liberatore of St. Louis, but he doesn’t have the same fastball. Given it is Colorado, he will get a long look at it.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Jordan Lawler was their first-round draft pick shortstop last year. He was in the discussion to be the first selection overall. He injured his non-throwing shoulder shortly after signing, so I want to see what it looks like when he gets going this season. Blake Watson is the best of a questionable lot of younger pitchers. Velocity and command that come and go are not harbingers for success, but the Diamondbacks have plenty of time to be patient with him as he gains strength and experience.

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