We are back! Over the course of the last few seasons, this series has aimed to detail every prospect promotion across each week of the entire regular season. After reviewing feedback from our readers, we have decided to mix things up a little bit for 2023. Instead of outlining every prospect that gets the call, the series will highlight some of the bigger names that receive a promotion. These players will be discussed in more detail. Some other notable prospects who head to the bigs will also be discussed, but this time around there will be more focus on detailing these top prospects and less focus on players who are being brought up as a depth piece for a double header.
Of course, this means there will be some variance on what this article looks like week to week. Some weeks there will be several notable young players who are joining their major league club while other weeks there will be hardly any. Either way, there should be more than enough players to breakdown.
Additionally, each week, I’ll do a quick note on the featured players from the week prior. This will mostly focus on recent performance and whether or not it appears that the player will stay with the big league club moving forward.
Last week, we took a look Bobby Miller, Edouard Julien, Bo Naylor, and Gavin Stone. Miller turned in another strong outing in his second start, allowing one run one four hits and a walk while striking out four in six frames against the Nationals. He’s now struck out nine in 11 innings while yielding just two runs. We speculated last week that he had the inner track over Stone to stay in the rotation and that has come to fruition, with Miller slated to face the Yankees on Saturday and Stone being sent back to Triple-A. Stone struggled again in his most recent start, allowing seven runs in just two innings against the Rays. Sure, it’s not exactly fair that Stone’s performance came against the best offense in baseball while Miller got the lowly Nationals, but Stone faltered in his previous two starts, too, so he’s the odd man out for now. Julien has been hitting well since his most recent promotion, triple slashing .250/.353/.536 in his first nine games, while hitting in the top half of the order most of the time. Julien has now been sent back Triple-A with Royce Lewis back in action and Jorge Polanco returning from the IL on Thursday. Hopefully he is up again soon, because the bat has started to show it can play. As mentioned in last week’s article, Naylor was only up for a doubleheader. He’s gone right back to raking at Triple-A, so hopefully we see him up soon.
Now, onto this week’s call ups.
Royce Lewis, INF, MIN (preseason PL/Team rank: 55/1): If you’re reading this article – one that outlined prospect promotions for a single week in an MLB season – you obviously are familiar with Lewis’ story. But just as quick refresher: it’s been a roller coaster.
Lewis was the first overall draft pick by the Twins back in 2017. He looked like a rock star out of the gate, before running into some struggles as a 20-year-old in High-A and Double-A in 2019, batting in the .230s at both levels. We didn’t have a minor league season in 2020 and then in February of 2021, Lewis suffered an ACL tear and missed the entire season. Lewis was able to return to professional action for 2022 and eventually made his MLB debut in May, before suffering another ACL tear in the same leg, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.
Lewis is now back in action. He completed his rehab assignment and is back with the Twins. Much like in 2022, Lewis raked in Triple-A on his rehab assignment, clubbing four home runs in eight games. As we have seen in brief glimpses across the last 15 months, the now 23-year-old has above-average pop and speed. It will be interesting to see just how much his speed has been impacted by these injuries and how willing he will be to run on the base paths. It’s encouraging to see that he swiped two bags at Triple-A.
In the field, the Twins have announced that Lewis will not be playing in the outfield this season. That’s not shocking given that is where he suffered his injury a year ago. So far, he’s been seeing his time at third, and that seems like his likely landing spot for the time being. Just given how much bad luck he was forced to endure, it is impossible not to root for Lewis to stay healthy and to continue to perform.
Ben Joyce, P, LAA (preseason PL/team rank: N/A/11): Joyce might be the most well-known prospect to ever go in the third round. The flame-throwing righty was a highlight sensation when pitching for Tennessee in 2022, consistently hurling his 100+ MPH fastball past collegiate batters. In total, Joyce punched out 53 in 32.1 innings and finished with a 2.23 ERA.
In my preseason bold predictions article – please don’t look at the Elly prediction – I made the call that Joyce would lead the Angels in saves. That feels highly unlikely due to the emergence of Carlos Estévez – who has seemed to have found success pitching outside of Coors Field – but the other points ring true, and it’s not surprising to see Joyce up this early.
Joyce primarily throws his heater and it leads to a bunch of strikeouts and a bunch of walks. At Double-A this year, the hard-throwing righty tossed 15.2 innings, striking out 24 and walking 13. That’s a 34.3% strikeout rate and an 18.6% walk rate. In all, that lead to a 4.60 ERA.
He’s made one appearance for the Halos thus far, and delivered in a high-leverage situation. Joyce picked up a hold by tossing a scoreless inning while fanning two. His walk rate – which was also a bit of a problem at the collegiate level – probably limits his upside, at least in 2023, but there is no denying that Joyce has late-inning stuff. He is most likely in a middle relief/pseudo set up role for the time being.
AJ Smith-Shawver, P, ATL (preseason PL/Team rank: N/A/2): At this time last year, a 19-year-old Smith-Shawver was allowing a fair number of runs at Single-A and now? He’s with the big-league club.
The 20-year-old righty was a seventh round selection in 2021 and while he was prone to give up runs in his first two seasons in the minors, Smith-Shawver always displayed a knack for striking hitters out. In 2023, he’s been close to unhittable. Smith-Shawver started the year at High-A, tossing 14 shutout innings across three starts and posting a ridiculous 44.2% strikeout rate. Those outings earned him a promotion to Double-A where he made two starts, and again, did not allow a run to cross the plate. From there, Smith-Shawver earned another promotion, moving to Triple-A and making two starts. By his 2023 standards, the righty was roughed up in Triple-A, allowing four runs in 12 innings while striking out 13. Atlanta has determined that Smith-Shawver has seen enough action in Triple-A and called him up earlier this week.
As of this posting, Smith-Shawver has yet to enter MLB action and the early indications are that he is going to work out of the bullpen, at least for now. It might be difficult to remember because he’s been so dominant across the last 13 months, but Spencer Strider also began his career in the Atlanta bullpen as well. That’s not to say that Smith-Shawver will be Strider, who is arguably the top arm in the sport, but it’s noteworthy that Atlanta is putting him on a similar path.
For 2023, it’s unclear what kind of impact to expect from a fantasy perspective. He can rack some strikeouts in multi-inning relief role, but he’s not likely to chip in with saves at any point. If he does move to the starting rotation at some point he is one to watch.
Grant Anderson, P, TEX (preseason PL/team rank: N/A/N/A): It’s going to be very rare in this series to mention someone who didn’t even crack the team list in our preseason preview, but that’s what’s happening here with Anderson. Simply put, it would be silly to not acknowledge his MLB debut performance.
Anderson checked into the game in a relief capacity on Tuesday and tossed 2.2 shutout innings while striking out seven. He allowed one hit. The strikeouts are nothing new for Anderson – in 28 frames between Double-A and Triple-A this season the righty had punched out 47. He’s a relief-only arm but one that’s used to working multiple innings. His walk rate was approaching double digits in the minors but in general, it’s not much of a concern, especially if he is going to strikeout hitters at this high of a rate.
Yes, it was one multi-inning relief inning against one of baseball’s lowliest offenses, but Anderson has the look of a potential elite reliever down the line.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Twins | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesfdx on Twitter)