Big Hype Prospects: Moreno, Ortiz, Casas, Perez, Rafaela

This week on Big Hype Prospects, we catch up on some pre-holiday shopping.

Five BHPs In The News

Gabriel Moreno, 22, C, ARI (MLB)
(AAA) 267 PA, 3 HR, 7 SB, .315/.386/.420

Moreno headlined the Diamondbacks return in the Daulton Varsho trade. FanGraphs describes him as “the most athletic catcher to come along since JT Realmuto.” Last season, Moreno continued to put his contact skills on display. A brief 73 plate appearance trial in the Majors yielded a high batting average and a tiny 11.0 percent strikeout rate. He generally produces modest exit velocities with a low angle of contact. In plain English, power isn’t a big part of his game, but he’ll be a valuable hitter all the same. He’ll need to make substantial adjustments to ever become a regular 20 homer threat.

There are questions about his ability to carry a full workload given that he’s never topped 350 plate appearances in a season. He’s considered an above average defender with sufficient athleticism to improve. With Carson Kelly still in-house, the Diamondbacks can consider platooning Moreno between catcher and designated hitter while working on his durability.

Luis Ortiz, 23, SP, PIT (MLB)
(AA) 114.1 IP, 9.92 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, 4.64 ERA

The lightbulb clicked for Ortiz partway through the 2022 campaign. His command improved as he became more aggressive with his domineering stuff leading to a successful 10 inning stint in Triple-A followed by 16 more frames in the Majors. Given his lack of Triple-A experience, it’s understandable why the Pirates have gone out of their way to delay Ortiz’s arrival via the signings of Vince Velasquez and Rich Hill. Ortiz has impressive Statcast measurables. Health permitting, he’s on pace to soon form a potent one-two punch with Roancy Contreras in the Pirates rotation.

Triston Casas, 22, 1B, BOS (MLB)
(AAA) 317 PA, 11 HR, .273/.382/.481

Virtually everyone in baseball is ready to see Casas sink or swim as the Red Sox first baseman of the present and future. The only barrier entering this offseason was a certain veteran. Removing Eric Hosmer from the roster ensures the manager Alex Cora won’t have to juggle any difficult decisions. Casas had a mixed 95 plate appearance debut last season, showing power and discipline but posting a poor .197 batting average. In this case, his .208 BABIP appears especially fluky. If anything, his batting profile is that of a high-BABIP hitter. Some of his at bats felt like he was selling out for contact (my personal observation, not that of a scout), a common “mistake” among debut hitters. Look for him to further refine his approach and consistency in 2023.

Eury Perez, 19, SP, MIA (AA)
75 IP, 12.72 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, 4.08 ERA

On the shortlist with Andrew Painter for the most exciting teenage pitching prospect, Perez is one of the reasons the Marlins are shopping Major League starting pitchers. He’s on pace to arrive in the second half of 2023. Scouts praise his excellent fastball command and biting slider. He’s a skyscraper of a man whose very size ensures a unique look. Scouts believe his changeup can develop into a weapon as well. His curveball is seen as a less competitive offering that can play up based on the effectiveness of his other pitches.

It’s worth mentioning this is the organization that, a decade ago, jumped a 20-year-old Jose Fernandez straight from High-A to the Majors. Of course, none of those decision-makers remain on hand, making it highly unlikely we will see a repeat with Perez.

Ceddanne Rafaela, 22, OF, BOS (AA)
(A+/AA) 522 PA, 21 HR, 28 SB, .299/.342/.539

The Red Sox are reportedly shopping their prospects for upgrades with Rafaela serving as the most-highly valued of the bunch. Rafaela wasn’t a consensus top prospect in the Red Sox system prior to last season. Now he’s widely considered their third-best farmhand behind Marcelo Mayer and Casas. He displayed a tantalizing mix of power and speed last season, although there are still worrisome signs with his offensive stats. He lacks discipline and carries a high swinging-strike rate. Hitters who thrive with the Javy Baez profile are few and far between.

Should his discipline and whiff issues become an impediment, Rafaela has super utility man potential. He’s currently being trained as a center fielder. He also played 12 games at shortstop last season and has prior experience at second and third base. He’s considered an above average outfielder. I do not have reports on his infield acumen.

Three more

Corbin Carroll, ARI (22): Although there was little doubt Carroll would start for the 2023 Diamondbacks, the Varsho trade all but ensures an Opening Day role. A line drive machine with excellent discipline in the minors, Carroll had a mixed debut. His 130 wRC+ in 115 big league plate appearances belied below average exit velocities and merely average discipline. Look for those traits to dramatically improve throughout 2023.

Dominic Fletcher, ARI (25): Another “winner” of the Varsho trade, Fletcher no longer has an entire squadron of outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart. Should Alex Thomas continue to struggle and Jake McCarthy suffer a sophomore slump, then Fletcher might just worm his way into the Arizona lineup. Likelier, he’ll serve as trade bait. The Diamondbacks still need pitching depth.

Kumar Rocker, TEX (22): Kumar made his debut in the Arizona Fall League, pitching 14 innings with mixed results. His 18 strikeouts were encouraging, but they were offset by 12 walks and a 4.50 ERA. He appeared in the news this last week in connection with Carlos Correa‘s delayed contract with the Mets. New York selected Rocker in the first round of the 2021 draft only to back out of their deal over concerns with his physical.

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