VOYAGES OF THE DEEP
VOYAGES OF THE DEEP
Welcome back to the depths of the Abyss. We hope you enjoyed Part 1, where we looked at a couple of deep prospects from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves organizations. If you like our work, please give us a follow on Twitter (Daniel Labude, @OrcaBaseball and Brian Labude, @Polar_Bear_Ball). This week we dive into Part 2 of The Abyss series, as we will look at two prospects each from the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. As an added bonus, each prospect will have a Treasure Ranking. The ranking will consist of gold coins (1-5), more coins mean the prospect should have a greater chance to move higher in rankings or by a greater magnitude.
THE ABYSS PART 2: BALTIMORE ORIOLES AND BOSTON RED SOX
BALTIMORE: STIVEN ACEVEDO, OF, 6’4″ AND 185 LBS; <1% ROSTERED ON FANTRAX (DANIEL LABUDE)
Sometimes in the deepest depths of the Abyss, you must take an even deeper breath and let the darkness pass you by to see the light creep across the murky blackness and find you. Patience is a tough game when it comes to prospects, but occasionally it is rewarded with a big season or a scorching white-hot stretch of games. This week, for Part 2 of The Abyss, we see such a prospect with Stiven Acevedo in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Acevedo stands a towering 6’4″ and weighs in at 185 lbs. He was signed out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic by the Baltimore Orioles and got his first action in 2019 playing in the DSL. There he would get his first taste of pro ball and managed to hit .250/.334/.302. As a 16-year-old in the DSL, he wasn’t particularly noteworthy; however, Acevedo did show some decent plate discipline with a walk rate of 8.3% and a strikeout rate of 19.1%.
SEEING THE BREAKERS BUILDING
Following the gap year caused by Covid for many prospects, Acevedo came stateside in 2021 as an 18-year-old. In 39 games at Rookie ball, he mustered a .254 batting average to go with a walk rate of 7.6% and a strikeout rate that raised slightly to 23.6%. His speed started translating in-game, with a sufficient nine stolen bases in the somewhat limited sample size. He belted three home runs as well, which was the first real sign of his in-game power developing.
FIGHTING THE BREAKERS
2022 was a whirlwind of a season, which came on the back of a much-improved plate discipline in a repeat performance at Rookie ball. In the 16 game small sample there, Acevedo improved with a batting average of .269. His plate discipline jumped dramatically as he walked 15.9% of the time and had a strikeout rate of 20.6%. This helped to raise his on-base percentage to a very good .397. The season turned quickly in Low-A ball though, as he struck out at a 35.4% rate in 38 games. The increased strikeout rate resulted in a lot less contact and a falling batting average of .168. Overall in 2022, his power was much better as he almost matched the extra-base hits from his first two professional seasons. He ended 2022 with 14 extra-base hits compared to 16 from the previous two years. With the increasing power also came more stolen bases as he swiped 12 bags on the year.
RIDING THE WAVE
Based on the early returns in 2023, we could be seeing Acevedo put things together and start making strides in Low-A ball. In 17 games (as of 5/2), he has come out hot, to the tune of a .329 batting average and a .385 on-base percentage. The power and speed are still coming along with three home runs, seven extra-base hits, and five stolen bases. The walk rate has dropped to 9.0%, but maybe more importantly, the strikeout rate is down to 23.1%.
BREAKING THROUGH THE BARREL
Overall, Acevedo hasn’t been a prospect that came out clicking on all cylinders to begin his career. However, he has shown good steady progress, especially as he repeats the higher level from the season before. His tall frame looks very promising to add more weight and muscle, which will result in more power production as he gets older and moves up levels. Even in deep leagues, Acevedo might not be an immediate add given his very low prospect status currently, but at the very least I believe he should be a prospect that needs to be monitored to see how he progresses this season. If his current success continues and especially if he sustains the success at High-A ball later in the season, Acevedo might break into the bottom of prospect rankings and could move even higher into next season.
Treasure Ranking: 🪙
BALTIMORE: CADE POVICH, SP, 6’3″ AND 185 LBS; 5% ROSTERED ON FANTRAX (BRIAN LABUDE)
ADRIFT AT SEA
Cade Povich was drafted out of Nebraska in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins. He saw limited action during his redshirt freshman season, pitching in a total of four games while struggling with the long ball as he gave up five home runs in 21.1 innings. 2021 saw him get his opportunity to be a mainstay in the starting rotation and he took full advantage of the spotlight. In 81 innings, he had an ERA of 3.11 to go along with 88 strikeouts; however, he did struggle with giving up hits and home runs, 74 and nine respectively. Despite the struggles, Minnesota took a shot on him because of his upside as a left-handed pitcher. To that end, he showed them they were right to do so as he took the mound for three games between Rookie ball and Low-A ball after the draft. His strikeout rate was an eye-opening 45.2% over 10 innings with zero earned runs and only a 4.8% walk rate.
Minnesota saw enough in Povich’s small sample debut to move him up to High-A to begin the 2022 season and he not only met the challenge but far exceeded it. In 78.2 innings, he had an impressive 31.8% strikeout rate; however, it came with an uptick in his walk rate to 7.7% and a mediocre ERA of 4.46. Minnesota would parlay his success into a major league relief pitcher at the trade deadline when they used him as the headliner to get Jorge López from Baltimore. He would go on to only make two more starts at High-A ball before his new team was satisfied that he had conquered the level and was ready for a more challenging assignment up to Double-A to finish the season. The increased level of competition provided a challenge for him as his ERA rose sharply to 6.94 over six starts and his strikeout rate would drop to 25.2%, with his HR/FB rising from below 10% to 20%. Looking deeper into his stats, it is evident that opposing hitters were hitting him more often and with hard contact as evidenced by a jump in his LD% from the low teens to 20.3%.
WAS IT A MIRAGE
The start of the 2023 season for Povich has been more of the same for him. In four starts back at Double-A, he has a 3.71 ERA driven by a higher LD% (26.5%) than he has had in his career. The strikeouts have increased back to his norms and could be an indication that over the next month, he starts to dominate like he did last year and force his way to Triple-A. In his latest start, he had one of the best games of his professional career as he went five innings, gave up one hit, and struck out 10 batters. If he can build upon that outing he will earn a promotion to Triple-A sooner than later.
The 2023 season will provide Povich another opportunity to rise to the challenge that Double-A hitters provide and position himself better to increase his prospect status, as well as improve his game to the point where he might be knocking on the door of a major league call up by season’s end. He will need to use a mix of his pitch arsenal and not get over-reliant on just one pitch. What may be more important to his development is his progress with the changeup. He has been able to use his big breaking balls to wipe out hitters up to this point; however, as the skill of right-handed hitters increases, he will need to be able to use the changeup more to keep hitters honest and from sitting on the breaking stuff. If he can keep hitters off balance and off the sweet spot, he will be able to keep the hard-hit rates down and the swing-and-miss stuff will be able to shine. He is a must-roster prospect in even shallower dynasty leagues that roster 250 prospects. With a good 2023 season, he could be pushing top 200 prospect status by season’s end.
Treasure Ranking: 🪙 🪙 🪙 🪙
BOSTON: ELMER RODRIGUEZ-CRUZ, SP, 6’3″ AND 160 LBS; 1% ROSTERED ON FANTRAX (DANIEL LABUDE)
Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz was drafted 105th overall by the Boston Red Sox in 2021. He came out of the draft with a tall and very thin frame at 6’3″, 160 lbs. His pitch mix contains a Low-90s fastball, with three off-speed pitches; a 12-6 big breaking curveball, a slider, and a changeup. The curveball has high potential and could be his best pitch at the moment.
SUNRISE ON THE HORIZON
Opening up his professional career in 2022 at Rookie ball as an 18-year-old, Rodriguez-Cruz produced a very good stint there in 11 games and 32.1 innings pitched. With a K/9 of 10.02 and a BB/9 of 3.34, he was very effective controlling the strike zone with his pitches as he also had a 77.3% strike rate. This helped him produce an excellent 1.95 ERA with a 2.8 FIP. He got a brief splash of Low-A ball for 2 games and 6.1 innings pitched as 2022 concluded. That very small sample yielded more of the same, as he had 1.50 ERA and 3.35 FIP. Compared to Rookie ball, he had a slight dip in his K/9 to 9.0 and a rise in his BB/9 to 4.5. The changing strikeout and walk numbers were fueled by a decrease in strike-throwing. His strike % dropped to 53.9% in Low-A compared to his Rookie ball 77.3%.
SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT
In 2023, Rodriguez-Cruz began the season at Low-A ball, this time though with some very mixed results. He once again has produced a great ERA at 2.03 in a small sample of four games and 13.1 innings pitched. His FIP has ballooned this season to 6.65 on the back of a rising BB/9 of 5.40 and a dwindling K/9 of 4.73. The command has been spotty at times as he has thrown strikes at a 63.5% rate.
Ultimately, 2023 could be a good year for Rodriguez-Cruz. His tall and thin frame could see him add some velocity to his fastball as he fills it out and continues to add muscle. Currently he has the look of a Triston McKenzie type of pitcher, but he needs to command his fastball better and improve some of his lesser off-speed pitches. I believe we will see much better results as the 2023 season goes along and could see him move into some prospect rankings. When things start clicking for him, he could rise fast.
Treasure Ranking: 🪙 🪙
BOSTON: BRAINER BONACI, 2B/SS, 5’10” AND 164 LBS; 2% ROSTERED ON FANTRAX (BRIAN LABUDE)
Brainer Bonaci signed with the Boston Red Sox in the summer of 2018 for $290,000 out of Catia La Mar, Venezuela. He would have to wait until the following summer before he could get his first taste of professional ball while playing in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). Despite the majority of DSL players being prone to swing-and-miss tendencies, he was able to show surprising restraint and patience at the plate as he had a walk rate of 8.8% and a strikeout rate of 15.3%. Unfortunately for him, that is where the glowing statistics end as he was mostly mediocre with the other tools. He did show a little pop but was mostly a doubles hitter as he had 19 extra-base hits, including three home runs.
It would be a while for him to make his stateside debut as he missed the 2020 season due to the Covid pandemic. Once he did make his debut he would show Boston he was too advanced for his first assignment at Rookie ball. He would have a triple slash line of .252/.358/.403 to go along with 12 stolen bases, 27 runs scored, and a 13% walk rate in only 32 games. Boston would reward his play by promoting him to Low-A towards the end of the season. He would struggle for the first time in his career as he had problems making contact with the more advanced pitching and regressed in his plate discipline with a walk rate of 5.8%. In my opinion, prospects generally have adjustment periods when they move up levels and his season ended before he could have a chance to adjust.
2022 couldn’t come quick enough for Bonaci as he was ready to shake off the struggles he saw while at the Low-A level the season before. He would not only shake off the poor performance, but turned it to dust as he put together his best professional season. The early signs of plus-plus plate discipline were on full display as he would walk 89 times for a robust walk rate of 18% to go along with an 18% strikeout rate. He would use his patience at the plate to get on base and steal often. He tallied 28 stolen bases, which helped him get into scoring position and allowed him to score 89 runs. It was a successful season that he could use to build on and improve to the point where his prospect status would rise as he rose through the system.
DEEP SEA DIVING
Bonaci has shown elite plate discipline and great speed to lead him to being a menace on the basepaths as he sets the tone for his team. In 2023, he will need to work on getting better contact and hopefully boost his all-around power numbers. To keep himself from being lumped into a utility role in the bigs, he will have to show that he can get to more loud contact, otherwise, his ceiling will drop with his floor. While he currently sits outside even the deepest of top prospect lists, a boost in his power numbers could see him finally crack the top 400 in prospect lists by season’s end. He will face an uphill battle as he is behind his peers in getting started due to visa issues keeping him out of the country until this past week. His debut for the 2023 season was on 4/29, so he will have to get dialed in quickly to reign in his chance to become prospect relevant. In all dynasty formats that roster 500 or more prospects, he should be rostered, while leagues that have shallower prospect pools should just be monitoring him at the time.
Treasure Ranking: 🪙 🪙