Yesterday we took a look at the season recap for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. It was a team that had a strong group of young hitters and the entire pitching staff was filled with interesting prospects, but they saw very little production from a large group of college hitters from the 2018 draft. Overall it’s a solid group for this level, not the best year, but better than average. To qualify for the list, a batter needed 140 plate appearances, while pitchers needed 40 innings pitched and/or 20 appearances. No batters of note weren’t eligible, other than Pat Dorrian, who is no longer in the system. The pitching side had a lot of intriguing arms who didn’t stay long. The most notable was Noe Toribio, who ranked third in our Morgantown top ten (see link below) and missed the cutoff by just two innings. The voting on this list was done by myself, Tim Williams and Wilbur Miller.
Here are the previous top ten prospect lists we have posted this off-season:
Greensboro Top Ten
- Ji-Hwan Bae, SS/2B – Bae (pictured above) was impressing before he went on a late run this season, winning our Player of the Month award for August. He was showing a strong all-around game, which only lacked power, though that’s a by-product of his approach at the plate. In August, he posted a .960 OPS and finished as the South Atlantic League leader with a .323 average. We completed our mid-season top 50 prospects list four weeks before the season ended and Bae was already ranked as the 8th best prospect in the system at that time. We saw someone who played strong defense at second base, but showed the tools to handle shortstop if given the chance to play there full-time. He has above average speed, which helped lead to 31 stolen bases in just 86 games. Bae is a line drive hitter, who slashes at the ball and tries to use his speed to either beat out a hit or take an extra base. He has a good eye at the plate and makes consistent solid contact, which should lead to a lot of doubles and his share of triples. Unless he changes his approach, then the home runs will be infrequent, but you’re talking about a high OBP guy, with plus speed and strong defense up the middle. He did all of that in full-season ball and didn’t turn 20 years old until late in the season.
- Lolo Sanchez, OF – Sanchez was returning to Low-A this year, despite a solid finish to his 2018 season. The overall numbers from last year didn’t impress due to a slow start, but he still had a nice stretch to end the season. This year he hit from day one, which led to a promotion in early June after the All-Star game. Sanchez played 61 games with the Grasshoppers, hitting .301/.377/.451, with 20 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases. He struggled after his promotion to Bradenton and will likely return to the level in 2020, but it’s important to remember that he won’t turn 21 years old until weeks after the season opens up. Sanchez showed a better approach at the plate this year and there isn’t a lot of swing-and-miss to his game. He can also drive the ball well, showing some power hidden inside a speedy outfielder with solid defense. While he still needs work on his routes, sometimes relying on his plus speed to make up for mistakes, he committed just one error in 2019 and picked up ten outfield assists.
- Mason Martin, 1B – Martin and Sanchez had the same overall average ranking among our three lists, so the only real difference was that Sanchez finished higher on two of his ballots. Basically, 2a and 2b is more appropriate here. Martin put up big power numbers in 2019, looking like a prototypical three outcome player. He hit 35 homers, walked 68 times and struck out 168 times in 131 games. It was a nice jump from last year, when he started the year in West Virginia and finished two levels lower in Bristol. The power has been there from the start, hitting 11 homers in the GCL in 2017, which is almost unheard of any season in that league. For reference, this year’s leader hit nine and he is 22 years old in a league full of 18-19 year old players. Martin showed better athleticism and speed this year, though he’s not going to be a stolen base threat in the future and his defense at first base still needs work. The real question here is whether he will make enough contact in the upper levels to be productive. He obviously produced through the strikeouts this year, but he saw an increase from 29.0% in Greensboro to 32.3% in Bradenton. The pitching is going to get tougher the higher he goes, so it’s a legit question, but the plus power is legit as well.
- Osvaldo Bido, RHP – Bido is a terrific story out of the Dominican, who keeps showing a lot of progress year-to-year. We went high on him last off-season in our Prospect Guide, banking on the pitches we saw and improvements we heard about, continuing to get better as he gets more experience and fills out his lanky 6’3″ frame. He will be 24 years old next year, but there is still more room for him to continue to fill out, as he was extremely skinny prior to signing. Even if he doesn’t, we are talking about someone who was hitting 97 MPH late in a season in which he threw 135.2 innings, an increase of 60 innings over last year (probably closer to 25-30 more when you factor in Extended ST innings in 2018). Besides the velocity, he has a nice four-pitch mix and does a good job of using all of his pitches, while filling the strike zone. You would like to see him miss a few more bats, which could be the next step in his progress. He finished 2019 in Bradenton, just two years removed from struggling to throw strikes in the DSL, so we are already talking about huge strides here.
- Rodolfo Castro, 2B – Castro made the SAL All-Star game with Lolo Sanchez and both were promoted from that game to Bradenton. They were each repeating the level, both turning 20 years old during this season, and they each played 61 games with the Grasshoppers. Castro was showing early season power, hitting .242/.306/.516, with 13 doubles and 14 homers. After the promotion, he posted a .679 OPS in 57 games with the Marauders. Castro had a decent debut in 2018, especially considering he was 18 on Opening Day and the first seven weeks of the season. He stepped up his performance in the second year and also showed better defensive skills, while taking some turns at shortstop. Castro has the makings of a solid defender, with the ability to make above average players, but he can be hurt by errors on the more routine plays when he has time to think about it, rather than let natural instincts take over. Besides the power and defensive tools, he’s also a decent runner, so he has a chance to contribute in multiple ways. His plate patience holds him back at this point and could be a bigger issue higher up in the system.
- Jack Herman, OF – Herman was dealing with some minor injuries during April and May, which slowed his climb to Greensboro. He joined the club on May 30th and played 75 games, hitting .257/.340/.464, with 12 doubles and 13 homers. He saw a boost in the home park, posting a .934 OPS in Greensboro and .686 on the road. Herman put up big numbers in the GCL after being drafted out of high school in the 30th round last year. He played this entire season at 19 years old (he turns 20 later this month) and showed some of the signs of youth in Low-A ball. Herman had a strong 23:24 BB/SO ratio in 37 games last year. With the jump in competition, he had 28 walks and 88 strikeouts. Those strong 14.2% BB and SO rates from last year, went to 9.3% for walks and 29.3% for strikeouts. Herman was playing center field in Extended ST this year, but split his time almost evenly between right field and left field. He had some issues that are mostly experience related, but he showed a nice arm by picking up 11 outfield assists.
- Colin Selby, RHP – Selby didn’t have the greatest scouting reports last year at Bristol. He was sitting low-90s, with a decent four-pitch mix and nice control. What he got credit for was being a smart pitcher, who was a competitor on the mound and went after hitters. His scouting report changed fairly quickly this season and caused him to be bumped up from Extended ST to Greensboro as soon as a spot opened. Selby was sitting 93-96 MPH this season and he started hitting 97 MPH more often later in the year. He threw both a curve and a slider last year, mixing the pitches well, but this season the slider was his go to pitch for outs. It has a nice sharp break and we saw solid results from the pitch in multiple looks. His changeup also showed improvement over last year, going from his clear fourth pitch to a solid third pitch. Selby posted a 2.97 ERA in 88 innings over 17 starts, with 86 strikeouts, a .215 BAA and a 1.11 WHIP. He had nearly identical success against lefty and righty hitters in every stat.
- Yerry De Los Santos, RHP – Due to multiple injuries, De Los Santos put in just 27 innings over the last three seasons. He was finally healthy for the entire season this year and showed a huge leap in his velocity and slider during Extended Spring Training. That led to him being promoted to Greensboro in early May and from that point on he dominated the opposition. De Los Santos posted a 1.40 ERA in 50 innings, with a 73:12 SO/BB ratio, a .183 BAA, a 1.69 GO/AO ratio and an 0.88 WHIP. Playing his home games in a park that favors offense, he posted a 0.00 ERA in 24.1 innings, giving up just nine hits. The stats are great, but they look even better when he has the stuff to match them. De Los Santos was sitting 94-96 MPH in Extended ST this year before being promoted. I saw him sitting 97-98 MPH later in the season, with a hard slider that was unhittable. He has the two-pitch mix and the control to move quickly through the system now that he has gone through a full healthy season.
- Braeden Ogle, LHP – Ogle began the season as a starting pitcher, then quickly moved to the bullpen. He didn’t last long in the Greensboro bullpen, barely qualifying for this list by reaching the exact minimum (20) for appearances before being promoted to Bradenton. Ogle was coming off of missing almost of the 2018 season due to shoulder inflammation. The injury wasn’t considered serious, but a setback weeks into his rehab led to more down time and a slower return. Early this year, he was showing quick drops in his velocity during games he started. That missed time combined with velocity concerns, led to him being limited this entire season. He finished the year off healthy, but only pitched 43 innings total, so we could see a limit on his innings next year, or a permanent move to the bullpen. That wouldn’t be the worst thing, because he can sit 95-97 MPH, hitting 98 in shorter stints, while mixing in his slider and changeup. He could use the extra work though because he doesn’t have the best command and his slider could use more work to become a more effective out pitch at the higher levels.
- Fabricio Macias, OF – Macias had a tough first season as a pro last year. After being signed as one of the top amateur players in Mexico, he had to wait half of the season for MLB to approve his contract and we also got word of him having trouble adjusting to life in the U.S. away from home for the first time in an extended stretch. Macias came back this year and made the Opening Day roster for Greensboro, then played 28 games more than anyone else on the team. He hit .280/.330/.386 in 122 games, with 36 extra-base hits and 18 stolen bases. Macias has solid all-around tools, with nothing that really sticks out, either good or bad. He has a bit of pop in his bat, above average speed and solid defense, with the ability to play all three spots. He just needs to work on tightening up his entire game, which is basic for all prospects at the lower levels.
Other Notables: Both Alex Manasa and Brad Case received top ten votes. The two right-handers looked strong at the beginning of the season, with Manasa increasing his strikeout rate and Case doing an outstanding job of keeping runners off base. His success led to a Bradenton promotion in early June.. Third round pick (2018) Connor Kaiser had a disappointing season, which was twice interrupted due to injuries. He finished with a .656 OPS in 79 games. Kyle Mottice is a singles hitter who is great at getting on base and then taking extra bases with his speed. He’s a solid defender at second base as well. Jonah Davis hit 19 homers while playing just over half of the season at Greensboro, but missed the top ten because of major strikeout concerns and a dip in both his running and defensive tools.
Steven Jennings, who was the second round pick in 2017, had an overall disappointing season, though he pitched somewhat better in the second half and had outings that looked better in person than on paper. His main drawback besides low velocity, is his lack of stamina, with noticeable drop-offs later in his outings. Righty reliever John O’Reilly put up solid stats in 20 appearances with Greensboro, but really took off after his promotion to Bradenton. He finished the year in Altoona.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.