Big Hype Prospects: Rodriguez, Volpe, Mervis, Bae, Macko

With the Rule 5 Draft looming, we’ll touch on a few more names who could find themselves with a new organization in the next few days. We’ll also start our pivot to offseason mode, highlighting prospects who are in the news.

Five BHPs In The News

Grayson Rodriguez, 22, SP, BAL (AAA)
69.2 IP, 12.53 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 2.20 ERA

If not for a lat strain, Rodriguez would have graduated from prospect lists. The Orioles are in the market for multiple starting pitchers, but Rodriguez reportedly has an inside path to an Opening Day role, per’s Jon Morosi. The consensus top pitching prospect in the league wields upwards of five above-average offerings with a superstar-caliber changeup as his headliner. Rodriguez’s rookie campaign will go a long way toward determining if the Orioles can build upon their surprising 2022 success.

Anthony Volpe, 21, SS, NYY (AAA)
(AA/AAA) 511 PA, 21 HR, 50 SB, .249/.342/.460

The Yankees aren’t expected to be active participants in the shortstop market this winter largely because Volpe and Oswald Peraza await in the wings. Peraza already has a successful 57 plate appearance stint in the Majors, albeit with worrisome exit velocities. Getting back to Volpe, he only has 99 plate appearances of experience in Triple-A and might merit further seasoning. He hit just .236/.313/.404 in the minor’s highest level, good for only a 91 wRC+. His swing is geared for extreme fly ball rates. As a result, his batting average might play below his raw tools. If he continues hitting over 50 percent fly balls, he profiles as a future 40-homer threat as he ages into more strength. Initially, he might frustrate with too many softly hit flies and pop-outs. There’s also potential for him to tighten up his launch angle to sacrifice a few home runs for better outcomes on average. Volpe has multiple pathways to superstardom.

Matt Mervis, 24, 1B, CHC (AAA)
(A+/AA/AAA) 512 PA, 36 HR, 2 SB, .309/.379/.606

A frequent guest of this column in recent months, Mervis charged through three levels while greatly improving his contact rate and plate discipline at each stop. For icing on the cake, he turned in a quality performance in the AFL. He’s very much in consideration for an Opening Day role as the Cubs first baseman or designated hitter. Chicago is reportedly on the hunt for a first baseman, but that won’t necessarily affect Mervis since designated hitter is also vacant. He profiles as a way-too-early frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year.

Ji Hwan Bae, 23, 2B/OF, PIT (MLB)
(AAA) 473 PA, 8 HR, 30 SB, .289/.362/.430

Bae turned in 37 solid plate appearances in the Majors. Like Peraza above, Bae posted an above-average batting line despite worrisome quality of contact. He mostly played second base and shortstop in the minors with some time in center field too. Outfield might be his best path forward on the Major League roster. There’s a whiff of Tommy Edman to Bae. He has defensive utility, a speed-first profile, and makes low-angle contact leading to high BABIPs and rare home runs. The Pirates are said to be considering middle infield additions which could affect Bae’s Opening Day assignment.

Adam Macko, 21, SP, TOR (A+)
38.1 IP, 14.09 K/9, 4.70 BB/9, 3.99 ERA

The Blue Jays acquired Macko as half of the return for Teoscar Hernandez. A mystery injury prevented Macko from working much this season, though he did appear in the AFL. The upcoming season is his Rule 5 evaluation year which might push him toward a bullpen role. He has the stuff to start – a three-pitch repertoire of average or better offerings. The southpaw is inconsistent, often losing command of his secondary offerings. Predictably, his fastball plays down when this happens. When he’s on, he mows through low-minors hitters as evidenced by 14.09 K/9 and a 15.8 percent swinging strike rate.

Five More Rule 5ers

Kameron Misner, TBR (24): Originally acquired in exchange for Joey Wendle, Misner has plus discipline, power, and speed. He’s a capable defensive centerfielder. Misner has yet to taste Triple-A despite never posting a below-average batting line. His biggest weakness is a lofty strikeout rate, but the rest of his profile seemingly supports this drawback. Among hitters, Misner would top my personal Rule 5 wishlist as a fifth outfielder and potential righty-masher.

Ronny Simon, TBR (22): Although he lacks Misner’s physicality and upside, Simon might be even more likely to be selected. He performed well in the Arizona Fall League following solid High- and Double-A campaigns. At the plate, Simon hides swing-and-miss issues with aggression. He’s developed sneaky pop and has shown a willingness to steal bases. Simon is a utility man who fits best at second or third base.

Andres Chaparro, NYY (23): The Yankees infield depth likely led them to leave Chaparro unprotected. He’s coming off an impressive performance at Double-A including a .289/.369/.594 line with 19 home runs in 271 plate appearances. The main knock against him is a lack of durability. He’s a corner infielder by trade.

Adrian Hernandez, TOR (22): A diminutive right-hander (by baseball standards), Hernandez is a changeup specialist who succeeds by keeping opponents off balance. Between his stature and pitching approach, it’s an unusual profile. ‘Unusual’ tends to do well in the current meta. Hernandez pitched well early in 2022. He struggled upon returning from a shoulder injury.

Cam Devanney, MIL (25): Although he’s never really appeared on prospect lists, Devanney made a swing adjustment last season. He now looks like a sure-fire Major Leaguer. He flashed power and adequate discipline at Double-A and performed well in a brief trial at Triple-A. His most attractive trait is utility – he’s proven himself a capable defender at shortstop, second, and third base.

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