Interesting Minor League Assignments
As most of the minor league seasons get started and assignments are confirmed, I’m running through a list of some of the assignments that interest me. Some were positive, some negative, and some might hint at what the team is thinking. I may be right, wrong, or just crazy, but as always sharing my thoughts on what’s going on. Enjoy!
Jackson Chourio, OF, MIL, Age: 19 Assigned to AA Biloxi
This may not be a surprise given Chourio reached AA last year as an 18-year-old, but he only experienced 142 plate appearances at High-A. Nobody would blame the Brewers if they were protective of one of the top prospects in baseball, but the AA assignment sets Jackson up to force the club’s hand for a callup later in the season if he excels. There was off-season speculation that Chourio could get his major league debut in 2023, and this assignment does nothing to dampen that speculation.
Jasson Domínguez, OF, NYY, Age: 20 Assigned to AA Somerset
Similar to Chourio, the Yankees apparently feel Jasson has mastered high-A in only 184 plate appearances as a 19-year-old last year, and have opted to have him begin the 2023 season in AA. The Yankees have more depth and more resources than the Brewers, and I’d be surprised if they were to promote Jasson to the big leagues this year unless he proved unstoppable. That said this is a positive assignment and could put Jasson on redraft radars for next year.
Tyler Soderstrom, 1B, OAK, Age: 21 Assigned to AAA Las Vegas
Soderstrom reached AAA in 2022 but had less than 200 plate appearances above High-A prior to this year. Oakland’s AAA team plays in the PCL which is one of the best hitting environments in all of professional baseball. The writing is on the wall Oakland wants Soderstrom to make his big league debut in 2023, I’d expect the promotion to be on the radar after the Super 2 cutoff knowing the A’s always have an eye towards costs and control.
Tanner Bibee, SP, CLE, Age: 24 Assigned to AAA/Gavin Williams, SP CLE, Age: 23 Assigned to AA
Neither assignment is particularly surprising, both spent most of last season in AA and Bibee is a year older. What this does suggest is that in case of injury, the Guardians are likely to call upon Bibee first over Williams, despite Williams being generally considered the better long-term prospect. Bibee getting the first shot is not set in stone, but the pair are likely to be the first considered if a need arises, but the assignments suggest Gavin Williams has some work to do before surpassing Bibee for that shot.
Dustin Harris, OF, TEX, Age: 23 Assigned to AA Frisco
Maybe I was overzealous, but I had hopes of Dustin Harris making his big league debut in the first half of 2023. Now optioned back to AA, where he spent all of last season nearly going 20/20 in only 86 games, there are several steps and options ahead of him. Even a hot start at the level won’t get people excited, as he’s easily too old for AA at 23 so success will only assure people he’s doing well, but failure may take him out of roster consideration in shallow leagues.
Brooks Lee, SS, MIN, Age: 22 Assigned to AA Witchita
After the craziest offseason I’ve ever witnessed for a free agent, Carlos Correa settled back in Minnesota on a shorter-than-expected, but still long-term deal. While Lee had already received a taste of AA last year, nobody would have blinked if the Twins decided to slow play Brooks behind their current major league depth, Royce Lewis’ summer return, and Eduard Julien’s progress up the ladder. Instead, the assignment means the Twins are very serious about opening their window to win, and look to push prospects up to the big leagues rather than play any service time games
Mason Auer, OF, TBR, Age: 22 Assigned to High-A Montgomery
Speaking of service time games… let’s talk about the Tampa Bay Rays. While Auer only spent half the season in High-A in 2022, he did produce a triple slash of .284/.365/.495 in 255 plate appearances and a 14.6% K-BB%. Now old for the level, Auer will have to prove himself again before getting a promotion to AA, in a system that does seem to force prospects to also spend significant time in AAA. What once was blue sky hope that Auer could get a late cup of coffee, now seems like a long-range forecast.
Ricky Tiedemann, LHP, TOR, Age: 20 Assigned to AA New Hampshire
Thought to have a shot at making his debut this season, the Blue Jays really pumped the breaks after Ricky experienced some shoulder soreness this spring. Maybe more interesting than shocking, being assigned to AA allows Ricky to be challenged, but also leaves the AAA level as a possible promotion instead of the majors. This limits the pressure on the young lefty while also giving room for the 2023 season to be a success, even if Tiedemann does not make his major league debut.
Masyn Winn, SS, STL, Age: 21 Assigned to AAA Memphis
Once a two-way threat, Winn has one professional inning on the mound back in High-A in 2021, but obviously focusing on one position has allowed the Cardinals to fast-track him. My thoughts were St. Louis was looking to give Winn some extended playing time late in the AAA season last year after AA ended, but obviously, they like what they saw and will let him begin 2023 one step away from the big leagues. Maybe he doesn’t get a shot this year with the absolute glut of talent the Cardinals have on the major league roster, but he’s also likely only an injury away from making his debut. Even if he doesn’t debut, Winn is a player capable of being a consensus top-20 prospect by August. Buy now if you still can!
Josue De Paula, OF, LAD, Age: 17 Assigned to Rookie DSL Bautista
Is the assignment back to rookie-level a surprise for the 17-year-old? Absolutely not. Why is it interesting? It’s a reminder that despite how intriguing Josue’s offensive profile may be, he’s not at all tested or close to contributing at the major league level. The Dodgers are notorious for slowly playing their prospects, and while the future is as bright as staring directly into an eclipse, that eclipse is not exactly expected to take place before 2026 at the earliest.
Cade Horton, SP, CHC, Age: 21 Assigned to Low A Myrtle Beach
The surprise 7th overall pick of this past FYPD, Cade Horton did not pitch after the draft having pitched into the college world series in his first year back from Tommy John surgery in 2021. What makes a placement to A ball interesting is many of his first-round college peers are already being assigned to High-A and some even to AA. Horton’s high 90’s fastball and slider that can be an elite pitch hinter Horton could be on a major league fast-track, but this assignment suggests the Cubs see him as a starter who needs to work on his curveball and changeup. The takeaway? He’s further from his major league debut than I originally thought, but might have a higher upside if he can take steps forward with his secondaries.
Heston Kjerstad, OF, BAL, Age: 24 Assigned to AA Bowie
The second overall pick of the 2020 draft was finally able to make his pro debut in 2022, after missing 2021 with a Covid-related heart condition, and an early injury last year. He was able to make it to AA last year but the success of the season was overshadowed by a High-A triple slash of .233/.312/.362. Heston flipped a switch this spring though, slashing .390/.419/.829 in 43 Grapefruit League plate appearances, and has re-emerged as a prospect on the rise. The Orioles were impressed enough to assign Kjerstad to AA, where a strong season could push him into the top 30 prospects in the game.
Kahlil Watson, SS, MIA, Age: 19 Assigned to High-A Beloit
Watson was a hot name in dynasty supplemental drafts last offseason and even got off to a hot start hitting 4 homers and 8 RBI in his first 6 games in A ball. The league quickly learned to exploit his poor plate discipline, with a 35% strikeout rate and underwhelming 7.5% walk rate, Watson looked badly overmatched most of the time and was even demoted to rookie ball after an incident with an umpire. Despite the failures of 2022, Kahlil opens this season in High-A as a 20-year-old. It would have been easy for the organization to give Watson another shot at low-A, but feel he’s either worked hard this offseason or maybe feel pressure to get some results from a player they paid well above slot value to sign. Neither would surprise me as much as this assignment.
Where is this “absolute glut of talent the Cardinals have on the major league roster?” Two players worth having is hardly a “glut.”