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…well last week, there weren’t a ton of promotions so we did something different. I revisited my preseason bold predictions piece from earlier this year to check in on how they were looking. Some are massive losses, while others are somewhat on the right track.
The week before that, we took a look at Elly De La Cruz, Andrew Abbott, Brayan Rocchio, and Reese Olson. De La Cruz’s crazy tools have been on display thus far – his highlights aren’t difficult to find – as he has two home runs, six steals and a .321/.387/.536 triple slash in his 14 games. His strikeout rate is around 30%, but he’s cut them down in recent contests. Abbott weirdly had his best outing on Wednesday, despite the fact that it was his first start allowing runs. The lefty struck out 10 while allowing three earned runs across six frames. He allowed four hits and walked none. He now has a 1.14 ERA in four starts. His peripherals indicate he’s been extremely lucky so far, but this most recent start is also the most he looked like the pitcher we saw in the minors, so who really knows. As mentioned in the original post, Rocchio was a temporary call up, so he’s back in Triple-A. Olson has been a mixed bag to start his career. Overall, he has a 5.59 ERA, which is not ideal, but he’s coming off a strong outing where he tossed six innings and struck out eight while allowing three runs. He’s likely to be inconsistent, but the strikeout ceiling is high.
Now, onto this week’s promotions.
Henry Davis, C/OF, PIT (preseason PL/team rank: 77/3): Davis’ stock fell a little bit following the 2022 season, mostly due to him missing significant time due to injury. In retrospect it probably should not have though, as the former first overall pick triple slashed .264/.380/.472 and hit 10 home runs in fewer than 70 games across several different levels of the minor leagues. Part of the reason was actually because Davis was actually overshadowed by another catching prospect in the system, Endy Rodriguez. Well in 2023, Rodriguez has struggled to get going while Davis mashed minor league pitching, earning himself what looks like a permanent promotion.
The right-handed hitting Davis kicked off the year at Double-A and saw very little resistance, triple slashing .284/.433/.547 with 10 home runs and seven steals in 41 contests. He also walked nearly as much as he struck out. That earned him a short-lived jump to Triple-A where he put up close to an identical triple slash (.286/.432/.514) in 10 games before the Pirates had seen enough and gave him the call.
It’s clear that Davis’ bat is good enough to perform at the Major League level and with Pittsburgh in the middle of a tight NL Central race, they will have it in their lineup going forward. The question becomes where is Davis going to play in the field? While the bat has been good, it seems that Pittsburgh isn’t super confident in his abilities behind the dish. He started in right field for his MLB debut and it looks like that may be his spot for the time being, along with some games at DH and the occasional game behind the plate.
Emmet Sheehan, P, LAD (preseason PL/team rank: N/A/12): Sheehan has been one of the top prospect breakouts this season after putting up just silly numbers at Double-A prior to his promotion. The 23-year-old tossed 53.1 innings at that level and recorded a 1.86 ERA. Oh, and he struck 88(!) batters. That’s good for a 41.7% strikeout rate.
These numbers should not be too surprising, either, as Sheehan put up similar statistics in 2022. A season ago, the righty spent most of his season at High-A where he threw 63.2 innings with a 2.83 ERA and a 38.7% strikeout rates. It is a little bit of a headscratcher as to why Sheehan was not ranked higher coming into 2023, but he does have some warts on the profile.
For one, Sheehan’s has had a double digit walk rate at every stop of his minor league career. It would be foolish to think that’s going to get better against big league hitters, at least in the short term. Secondly, he doesn’t have a history of pitching deep into games. Only twice in the last two seasons did Sheehan throw six innings in a contest. Part of that is probably the Dodgers wanting to save him arm, but it is also noteworthy on its own.
Naturally in Sheehan’s MLB debut he completed six innings. He didn’t allow a single hit while walking two and striking out three. All things considered you can’t ask for much more in an MLB debut, but it was pretty un-Sheehan-like. It’s more realistic to expect him to pitch around five innings with a bunch of strikeouts going forward.
Gavin Williams, P, CLE (preseason PL/team rank: 31/2): Cleveland took Williams in the first round back in 2021 and he’s been striking out seemingly everyone ever since. Across High-A and Double-A in 2022, Williams compiled 149 strikeouts in 115 innings, while putting up a 1.96 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. Unsurprisingly, he was pegged as one of the game’s best prospects coming into the 2023 season.
It’s essentially been more of the same in the minors this year, too. The 6’6 righty tossed 14.1 innings in Double-A, allowing just one run while striking out 20, before earning a promotion to Triple-A. There he made nine starts and recorded 61 strikeouts and a 2.93 ERA. If there is one negative note to make, it’s that Williams’ walk rate climbed to 11.5% at Triple-A. He had a 9.2% mark in 70 innings at Double-A in 2022, so walks could be an issue for him.
We did see some of that in his MLB debut against Oakland – which Nick Pollack did a live broadcast for. Williams walked three in 5.2 frames. He also struck out four and allowed four earned runs. Overall it was a fine MLB debut. He only induced seven whiffs, but we should see Williams look a bit more dominant in his next start, which is slated to come against Kansas City. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of rookie pitchers this year and Williams could end up being one of the better ones, but his 2023 walk rate has me a little skeptical, at least in the short term.
Bo Naylor, C, CLE (preseason PL/team rank: 51/6): Naylor received a very temporary promotion back in May, so we covered him a few weeks ago. Not a lot has changed since then other than the fact that this promotion seems much more permanent.
Prior to the promotion, Naylor logged 60 games at Triple-A, triple slashing .253/.393/.498 with 13 home runs and two steals. Naylor had a massive breakout in 2022, where he triple slashed .263/.392/.496 with 21 home runs and 20 steals across Double-A and Triple-A. The 23-year-old Naylor looks look a massive upgrade for Cleveland, who has gotten a whopping 37 wRC+ from the catcher position in 2023.
Naylor has only logged a handful of plate appearances at the MLB level, so there is nothing noteworthy to this point. Looking ahead, Naylor has the potential to perform at a league average rate for catchers, if not even a little better. If he starts to swipe bags like he did in 2022, he could immediately become one of the best fantasy catchers to roster, but he’s done so only sparingly this season, so it would be more of a bonus at this point.
Michael Busch, INF, LAD (preseason PL/team rank: N/A/5): Like Naylor, this isn’t Busch’s first promotion, so we’ve covered him previously. Busch has also been around for a long time, so it’s like you know his reputation by now. If you don’t, here’s a quick refresher:
Busch is Max Muncy type, so it’s only fitting that he got the call following Muncy’s trip to the IL with a hamstring injury. That’s not to say that Busch has Muncy’s upside, but he’s a somewhat position-less infielder who draws a lot of walks, strikes out a bunch, and hits for power. At Triple-A, Busch has put up a .313/.428/.540 triple slash with seven homers in 45 games. He’s cut his strikeout rate down to 21%, and if he can keep the punchouts in check at the MLB level he will definitely find success, but it’s likely Busch heads back to the minors once Muncy returns, which could be as early as this weekend.
Photo courtesy of the Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesfdx on Twitter)