Batting Prospect of the Week: Jansel Luis, MI, Visalia
Luis tore into 66er pitching over the week, albeit in a series loss. He went 9-for-22 and picked up every type of hit. He stole 2 bags. He scored 4 times and drove in 4 runs. He’s the #13 prospect on MLB Pipeline and #20 on Baseball America.
Pitching Prospect of the Week: Dylan Ray,
Ray worked 6 innings and struck out 6 without walking anyone in a win over the Emeralds. It was his third consecutive start with a game score in the 50s, and over the past two months he has averaged a game score of 61, had an ERA of 1.94, held batters to a .208 average, and struck out 63 while walking just 16 in 51 innings. So Ray has been promoted to Amarillo, which is a good thing because there is a dearth of pitching prospects in the upper minors. Yu-Min Lin and Blake Walston are the only other pitchers on MLB Pipeline’s top-30 who are currently in AA or AAA, while Baseball America also includes Justin Martinez and Luke Albright. But Martinez is about to graduate and Walston and Albright are likely to drop off for performance related reasons, so it is good to see another prospect advancing to take their place.
No series wins this week, unless you count the single-game playoff the ACL Diamondbacks Red squad picked up over the ACL Dodgers. Reno and Hillsboro split their series while Amarillo and Visalia lost theirs, and Diamondbacks Red fell agonizingly short of the championship against the ACL Brewers.
Tuesday: Sugar Land 2, Reno 1, 10 innings
Both teams put up 1 run in regulation, with the Aces picking up 3 hits and the
Skeeters Space Cowboys being held to just 2 hits. In the 10th, Jake McCarthy was the zombie runner and stole third base with one out, but Blaze Alexander and Ali Sanchez both struck out and stranded him there. Sugar Land put down a bunt and Andrew Saalfrank committed an error, leading to an intentional walk and a single to end the game. Ryne Nelson pitched 6 innings and allowed just 1 run, but struck out just 1 against 3 walks. Ali Sanchez hit a tying home run in the 8th inning for the lone Aces run of the game.
Wednesday: Reno 5, Sugar Land 4
The Aces leveled the series thanks to an improbable comeback. Aaron Sanchez struggled a bit, giving up 3 runs in 4 innings. Tyler Gilbert gave up an additional run, and the Space Cowboys led 4-0 entering the 8th inning. But Jake Cousins walked Dominic Fletcher and Jordan Lawlar to open the inning, and after a Pavin Smith flyout, Kyle Lewis knocked a three run home run to pull the Aces within one run. And neither the Aces nor Lewis were finished. In the top of the 9th, still trailing 4-3, Adrian Del Castillo led off with a single and Jorge Barrosa drew a walk. Diego Castillo’s groundout advanced the runners to second and third, and Blaze Alexander (who had come on to run for Del Castillo) score the tying run on a wild pitch. After a pair of walks, Lewis came to the plate and singled in the eventual winning run. Luis Frias worked a perfect 9th for the save. Unfortunately, Dominic Fletcher was injured in the 9th inning as he tried to bunt the runners and bunted it with his finger. He was placed on the IL and may be done for the year.
Thursday: Reno 7, Sugar Land 2
Blake Walston struck out 4, which is the second-most he has struck out in a game since the calendar flipped to July. He also walked 4, which means that he has still walked more batters than he has struck out. It’s far too early to give up on Walston, who still has the talent that made him a prospect in the first place, but he is going to need to do some offseason work if he is to take the next step. At this point, there’s little reason to think he can get major league hitters out. Nick Dalesandro made his AAA debut, replacing Dominic Fletcher, and went 1-for-3. Kyle Lewis homered. Sergio Alcántara, back with the organization, had 2 hits.
Friday: Reno 8, Sugar Land 2
The Aces secured at least a split as a bullpen game went well, Jake McCarthy had 4 hits, Jordan Lawlar had 2, and Emmanuel Rivera homered. Konnor Pilkington (who I am contract and now marriage-bound to root for, as he went to Mississippi State) was the starter and worked 3.2 scoreless innings. It was likely his best "start" since joining the organization. I hope to see Pilkington turn things around and become a useful back-end of the rotation piece in the future.
Saturday: Sugar Land 5, Reno 2
The Aces actually outhit the Space Cowboys 9-7, but left 11 on base. They spread out their hits too much, with Emmanuel Rivera the only batter without a hit for the Aces, but Jake McCarthy the only batter with multiple hits. Ali Sánchez picked up the only extra-base hit, a double. On the pitching side, Tyler Gilbert worked 3.1 scoreless innings and struck out 5.
Sunday: Sugar Land 4, Reno 2
Another tight game got away from the Aces as Peter Strzelecki struggled to command his pitches. He struck out 2 but walked 3 (one intentional) and gave up a 2-run single to Dixon Machado. This after Emmanuel Rivera had tied the game in the top of the 8th with a solo home run. Reno’s other run came courtesy of a Jordan Lawlar triple that plated Jake McCarthy. Ryne Nelson’s second start of the week went better than his first by some measures, as he struck out 3, but he also allowed 2 runs instead of just 1. Lawlar and McCarthy both had 2 hits, but McCarthy was also caught stealing twice. Lawlar has a .917 OPS in Reno thus far and is clearly handling the level.
Amarillo Sod Poodles
Tuesday: San Antonio 8, Amarillo 7, 10 innings
Another extra inning game saw an improved outing from Yu-Min Lin, who worked 5.2 innings and struck out 9 against 1 walk, while allowing 4 runs. Conor Grammes was unable to preserve the lead. Neyfy Castillo continued his hot streak and drove in the zombie runner in the 10th, but Mitchell Stumpo couldn’t preserve the lead as the Missions came back to win the game. Seth Beer and Deyvison De Los Santos had earlier picked up a couple of hits each, including a two run home run by De Los Santos. Ivan Melendez also doubled and walked.
Wednesday: San Antonio 4, Amarillo 2
The good: Ivan Melendez didn’t strike out. Deyvison De Los Santos hit another home run. Peter Solomon pitched decently despite taking the loss. The bad: the Soddies managed just 5 hits and their pitching struck out just 5 while walking 4.
Thursday: Amarillo 4, San Antonio 2
The first place Sod Poodles picked up their first win in San Antonio this series behind an outstanding pitching performance from Luke Albright, who tossed 5 scoreless innings, allowing 2 hits. (OK, he also walked 6, so maybe the performance wasn’t quite as outstanding as it looks at first.) But the Soddies also picked up 13 hits. There were 3 each from Ivan Melendez and Seth Beer, and two each from Caleb Roberts and Cam Duzenack. Roberts knocked his 20th double as he continues to both catch and play the outfield, giving him a possible Daulton Varsho path to the majors. Neyfy Castillo came back to earth, with 3 strikeouts and no hits.
Friday: Amarillo 1, San Antonio 0
Can I get paid to highlight pitchers in this space? I highlighted Ricardo Yan, and he was promoted and has not allowed a run since. I highlighted Jamison Hill, and he tossed 5 innings of 1 hit ball, striking out 6 and allowing just 1 walk. Unfortunately, he didn’t get any run support. But Taylor Rashi and Michel Otanez didn’t allow a baserunner across 4 innings and the Soddies finally broke through in the 8th as Caleb Roberts reached on an error that allowed Cam Duzenack to score the only run of the game.
Saturday: San Antonio 6, Amarillo 5, 10 innings
Another extra-innings loss by the Sod Poodles, this one marked by the AA debut of Liam Norris, who took the loss as he allowed the Manfred Man to score on a single by Graham Pauley. Norris retired the first batter he faced, top prospect Jackson Merrill, who flied out to Vukovich in center. He then intentionally walked Marcos Castañon before Pauley’s game winning hit. Earlier, things had gone Amarillo’s way. It was a bullpen game, and Will Mabrey and Conor Grammes combined to throw 5 scoreless innings while allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks. Reyes Montilla took the mound in the 6th with a 4-0 lead, and left the game with a 4-3 lead. Montes De Oca was charged with the blown save as he surrendered 2 more runs in the 8th, but AJ Vukovich singled in Tim Tawa in the 9th to tie the game.
Sunday: San Antonio 11, Amarillo 10
It was a blowout that somehow turned into a close game. Yu-Min Lin got the start, his second of the week. He may need to go back to pitching just once a week. He gave up 5 runs and didn’t strike anyone out, or AA may just be getting to him. After two scoreless starts to begin his time in Amarillo, he’s posted a 6.53 ERA in his past 6 starts. Earlier, the Sod Poodles had taken a 4-0 lead in the second inning with a three-run double from Cam Duzenack the big blow. But it was given back and then some by Lin and Dillon Larsen, who gave up a home run that scored 2 of Lin’s runners, and also allowed two to score on wild pitches. It was 11-4 entering the final frame, but the Sod Poodles refuse to go away. J.J. D’Orazio picked up his first AA home run, scoring Seth Beer and Neyfy Castillo. Duzenack homered, scoring Jancarlos Cintron. Castillo drove in Tim Tawa with a walk. Juan Centeno made his second out of the inning, striking out to end the threat. That wasn’t the only disappointment. After Duzenack’s home run, Tawa and Vukovich singled to bring Melendez to the plate with a chance at taking the lead. He struck out.
Tuesday: Hillsboro 9, Eugene 3
The Hops were the lone affiliate to win on Tuesday, with Manuel Pena and David Martin the offensive stars and Spencer Giesting tossing 5 innings of 2 run ball to pick up the win. Tommy Troy drew two walks and stole his 6th base already at Hillsboro. That ties him for second on the team this year, with everyone trailing Patiño’s 41 steals.
Wednesday: Eugene 3, Hillsboro 2
The Hops got two outstanding pitching performances, with 5 innings with 3 hits and 3 runs from Yilber Diaz and then 4 scoreless innings with just 1 hit allowed from Ricardo Yan, who is befuddling hitters in High-A to at least the same level as he was in Low-A. In the 8 innings he’s worked so far for Hillsboro, he has yet to allow a run and has allowed just 7 batters to reach base. He’s struck out 12. Diaz, despite a 2-10 record, has been similarly impressive of late. Over his past 10 starts opposing batters are hitting just .208 and he’s striking out batters at an impressive clip. On the offensive side, Manuel Pena picked up 3 hits and Kevin Graham tripled.
Thursday: Eugene 14, Hillsboro 0
There is nothing good to say about this game. OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. But anytime an outfielder commits two errors (here’s looking at you, Wilderd Patiño) there’s a problem. Tommy Troy did have 2 hits. That’s nice. But the Hops continued to struggle as the season is winding down.
Friday: Hillsboro 11, Eugene 3
Dylan Ray tossed 6 innings of 2 run ball. Wilderd Patiño and Gino Groover both picked up 3 hits. Groover drove in 4, Tommy Troy drove in 3, and David Martin drove in 2 as the Hops dominated the Emeralds. Christian Cerda drew 3 walks. Keep an eye on Cerda and Martin as they may compete to be the catcher of the future. Both of them are excellent at the plate; Cerda is the better defender right now. I think we can safely declare the Diamondbacks the winners of the David Peralta trade.
Saturday: Eugene 3, Hillsboro 2, 10 innings
The Hops picked up 11 hits but left 12 on base throughout the 10 inning game. Andrew Pintar, Kevin Graham, and Junior Franco all had 3 hits. Unfortunately, the catching duo that I praised on Friday night combined to go 0-for-9 on Saturday night, a dismal showing that helped to waste an excellent game from Jose Cabrera, Listher Sosa, and Armando Vazquez, who combined to allow 2 runs on 6 hits across 9 innings. Cabrera worked the bulk, with 5 innings, but Sosa was the most impressive, striking out 5 and walking none in his 2 innings of work.
Sunday: Hillsboro 7, Eugene 1
Spencer Giesting turned in a quality start, striking out 8. Andrew Pintar added a pair of doubles, Wilderd Patiño and Jack Hurley stole 2 bases each, and Gino Groover picked up his first triple. Manuel Pena also picked up a couple of hits and is now hitting .266 for the month and has a 6 game hitting streak going. Hillsboro was able to salvage a split.
Tuesday: Inland Empire 3, Visalia 1
Jacob Steinmetz put together a decent appearance, allowing 3 runs in 5 innings. Unfortunately, the Rawhide had just 2 hits through 8 innings. In the ninth, Druw Jones doubled, and Gavin Conticello doubled him in for the lone Visalia run. It looked like it would go better than that after Jansel Luis led off the game with a triple, but back-to-back strikeouts from Jones and Kevin Sim led to his being stranded on third. Cristofer Torin had the other hit of the game, and stole a base.
Wednesday: Inland Empire 15, Visalia 7
Alec Baker, this year’s 18th round selection out of Dallas Baptist, got his first start. He didn’t get out of the first inning and gave up 5 runs. Luis Tejada took over and gave up 3 more. Josh Swales, a 13th round pick in 2021 who is on the verge of flaming out of the system entirely gave up 5 more. It was an ugly pitching performance. Gavin Conticello picked up 2 hits (including a home run) and Cristofer Torin also had 2 hits. Just don’t look at the pitching lines, and you could trick yourself into thinking this was a good game.
Thursday: Visalia 5, Inland Empire 4
What is the best time for your first professional home run? How about in the 9th inning of a tied game? That was the experience of Druw Jones, who seems to be rounding into form after missing so much time due to injury over his first two years in the system. His 2-for-4 performance raised his batting average to .197. But he wasn’t the only offensive star. Jansel Luis picked up 3 hits, including a home run, and Jose Fernandez also homered. Kevin Sim doubled. It was a good night for the Rawhide.
Friday: Visalia 4, Inland Empire 3
Wyatt Wendell had an excellent outing and got support from Jose Fernandez as the Rawhide leveled the series against the 66ers. More on Wendell later.
Saturday: Inland Empire 11, Visalia 0
Look away, fans. Druw Jones went 0-for-4. Landon Sims didn’t get out of the first inning. It wasn’t all Sims’s fault. The 66ers first inning started with an infield hit that could have been scored an error, then there were a pair of groundouts that scored a run. Then it went wrong. He hit the next batter. He gave up a single. He was removed with a 3-2 count on the next batter, but it seems to have been pitch count related, not injury related. (He was visibly frustrated at being removed.)
Sunday: Inland Empire 12, Visalia 10
For the third time this week, Inland Empire piled it on from the start, scoring 6 runs in the first inning. This time, Lorenzo Encarnacion was the victimized starter. This time, though, the Rawhide fought back. Everyone got a hit, and seven out of nine got multiple hits. Anderdson Rojas led the way with 4 hits, and Jansel Luis had 3. Even Druw Jones had 2 hits, although he did strike out 3 times. Unfortunately, the 66ers kept scoring and the Rawhide fell short, but it was an encouraging sign from the offense.
ACL Dbacks Red
Thursday: Dbacks Red 4, Dodgers 3
It’s complex league playoff time, and Diamondbacks Red got things off to a cracking start with a walk-off victory. Tied at 3 in the 9th, Kristian Robinson led off with a single, advanced to second base on a single from 2023 draftee Caden Grice, stole third base, and scored on a single from Adrian De Leon to give the Diamondbacks affiliate the victory.
Friday: Brewers 2, Dbacks Red 1
Cole Roberts is the son of Dave Roberts, and was drafted in 2019 by the Padres. His choice to attend college at that time seems foolish in retrospect, as his honoring his commitment to Loyola Marymount led to his not being drafted in the future. He signed as a free agent with the Diamondbacks this year, and he went 4-for-5, raising his complex league average to .500. Vitico Valdez tossed 4.1 scoreless innings. But it wasn’t enough as, despite being outhit 7 to 3, the Brewers affiliate triumphed in the first game of the complex league championship series.
Saturday: Dbacks Red 14, Brewers 2
The series moved to Salt River Fields and the Diamondbacks affiliate trounced the Brewers affiliate. Jefferson Pena, Adrian De Leon, and Kristian Robinson hit home runs. A bunch of pitchers no one has ever heard of performed well, with Vince Sanchez tossing 4 innings of 1 run ball. Cole Roberts got 2 more hits and stole a base. De Leon got 2 more hits in addition to his home run. This forced a deciding game on Sunday.
Sunday: Brewers 5, Dbacks Red 4
Despite being outscored 19-9 across the 3 game series, the Brewers prevailed and took home the ACL crown. But the Diamondbacks youngsters didn’t give up and came close to pulling out the victory. After the Brewers claimed a 4-0 lead in the second inning and a 5-0 lead halfway through the fourth, the pitching took over. Carlos Rey (this year’s 17th round selection) and Edgar Isea combined to toss 4.2 shutout innings and struck out 10 to no walks. Caden Grice doubled in Kristian Robinson, and Ronny Polanco singled in Grice and Jackson Feltner to pull the score to 5-3. There was a chance to tie the game in the 7th, as a Jefferson Pena double scored Adrian De Leon, but Alexander Benua was thrown out attempting to score. De Leon led off the ninth with a double, but Polanco and Modeifi Marte both struck out before Benua lined out to shortstop, ending the game and the series.
Pitcher Spotlight: Wyatt Wendell, RHP, Visalia
Wendell looks and acts more mild than his more famous father, Turk Wendell, but reportedly he pitches with spare change in his cleats, so he does have some of his own quirks. He’s 6’5" and 215. Undrafted out of high school (where he played third base and was a leading hitter as well), he went the JuCo route in Iowa, and after again going undrafted, he attended Purdue. He struggled in his lone year at Purdue in 2022, but performed much better in the MLB Draft League, leading to his signing with the Diamondbacks in July of 2022. He’s been described as a late bloomer, but there is some doubt as to whether he will ever actually bloom or not. Inconsistency has followed him, and the velocity has not reached the hoped-for levels.
When he is on his game, though, he shows signs of a future in baseball. One such outing was August 5, where he struck out 7 in 5 innings. He relies on off-speed stuff. While he might seem old for the level, his father didn’t debut until 26 and didn’t stick in the majors until he was 28, so there is plenty of room for development if he follows the same aging curve.
It would be unreasonable to expect much out of Wendell, but it would be unwise to write him off at this point. He needs to develop. He’s quite the long shot to ever grace a big league roster, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Batter Spotlight: Anderdson Rojas, OF, Visalia
Remember how a few years ago we had players who were missing expected consonants in their name? Rojas has an extra consonant.
When signing players to fill out Dominican League rosters and for organizational depth, there is a very different goal from the top-end signings that get the press. The 2021 international signing class that got written up here didn’t have a lot of true top-end signings, but it did include a lot of players that are now making their way through the system, and we can see the depth in it. Manuel Pena was the top of that class, and he is in Hillsboro and has been scuffling but is turning it around. Two Venezuelan signings that we didn’t know much about have entered into the top-30 prospect conversation, in Yilber Diaz and Jose Fernandez. Then, there’s the signings that didn’t even make that SnakePit article, like Ricardo Yan.
Manuel Pena, Diaz, and Yan have all advanced to Hillsboro. Highly regarded signings like Jakey Josepha and Ezequiel Surun haven’t advanced past Rookie League yet. Kenny Castillo is currently injured after scuffling in Visalia. We recognize that the draft is a bit of a crapshoot, and the international market is doubly so. There was and still is little information on Anderdson Rojas because he simply hasn’t captured the attention of scouts enough for there to be a lot of reports, but he’s been brought along at a consistent pace and has generally performed well.
Standing at 5’10" and 150 pounds, this 19 year old Dominican has some filling out to do. But, once that happens, he fits well with many other prospects in the system, although he is not nearly as highly regarded. He bats left handed and was signed as an infielder, but has just 8 starts at second base this year, with most of his action coming in the outfield, where he has played both left and center. He signed at 17 and struggled in his first season in the Dominican Summer League, slashing just .210/.298/.277 and committing 5 errors at shortstop and 3 at second base. He started 2022 in the DSL as well, and after slashing .353/.389/.509 through 32 games, was brought to the Complex League, where he promptly fell flat in a small sample size. He started this season in Visalia and has demonstrated speed but not power. He’s slashing .260/.299/.362 on the year and has stolen 12 bases, but so far in August that slash line is .317/.342/.430. He has just 2 home runs on the season, but 6 triples and 19 doubles.
Rojas makes consistent contact but chases more than he should. That said, his contact is good enough that he has struck out in just 16.4% of plate appearances this year. He has easy speed; he easily reached third base on his triple on Sunday without running hard. He has plenty of range in the outfield and should have plenty of arm strength for left field or center field. I don’t believe he is entirely done growing; he looks taller than his listed height and he is certainly going to fill out more. If he can develop better selection at the plate and grow into some power, he could be a guy who hits 10-15 home runs and plays tolerable defense, a potential fourth or fifth outfielder. For now, he’s a guy who has one tool (speed) that could play at the major league level, and has two further tools (contact and defense) that show signs of possibly getting there. But none of his tools show the potential to elevate him much above Visalia without some combination of them improving, and it would take substantial improvement on his batting eye and his defense for him to contribute to a major league roster. However, he won’t be 20 until March, so he is young enough to make those improvements.