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 Henry Davis, Emmet Sheehan, Gavin Williams, Bo Naylor and Michael Busch. Depending on your league setting, Davis may have already gained outfield eligibility. For the time being he is splitting time between right field and designated hitter. His bat has proved worthy thus far, even though we are talking about a small sample. Weirdly, there is a chance here that Davis may head into 2024 without catcher eligibility, which definitely dilutes his value some (even if he produces). Sheehan’s second big league start came again the Astros and he survived the test, tossing six frames and allowing two runs while striking out four. He’s kept runs off the board but we haven’t seen the strikeouts we did in the minors quite yet. It’s reminiscent of what we were seeing with Andrew Abbott just a few weeks ago before he fanned 10 in a game. Williams put together a nice start against the Royals on Monday, tossing seven one-hit frames, while striking out six and walking one. It’s only been a handful of games for Naylor, but he’s struggling at the plate, striking out about 40% of the time. He’s also not playing everyday. While he’s a buy long-term, if he doesn’t get consistent playing time he’s probably not worth rostering in 2023. Busch hasn’t done too much at the MLB level in his limited opportunities, and with Max Muncy back from the IL, it might be awhile before we see Busch get looks again.
Now, onto this week’s promotions.
Jordan Westburg, INF, BAL (Preseason PL/team ranking: 75, 7): It says a lot about how deep the Orioles farm system is that Westburg ranked as low as seventh in our preseason team breakdowns.
Westburg is a 24-year-old infielder that Baltimore took 30th overall in the 2020 draft. Obviously there was no 2020 minor league season so we got our first look at Westburg as a professional in 2021. He played across three levels that season (Single-A, High-A and Double-A), posting a .285/.389/.479 triple slash with 15 home runs and 17 steals in 112 games. Westburg backed up that campaign with an arguably better one in 2022, finishing with a .265/.355/.496 line with 27 home runs and 12 steals across Double-A and Triple-A.
The bat-first infielder has continued to produce at Triple-A in 2023, belting out 18 home runs in just 67 games – good for a .295/.372/.567 triple slash. He doesn’t have a perfect offensive profile, of course. Westburg’s strikeout rates have consistently been in the mid-20s in the minors, though he has cut them down a bit in Triple-A. His power and ability to draw walks should mask his strikeout rates enough, but we are probably looking at more of a .250-.260 hitter than the one that has flirted with .300 in Triple-A this season.
His ability to steal bags shouldn’t go unnoticed either. While he’s not a burner, Westburg has swiped 35 bags in the minors while only being caught eight times. Westburg’s defensive limitations could also work in fantasy manager’s favor, as he could rack up time at different positions, giving him some position versatility.
While it’s easy to get excited about Westburg’s potential offensive impact, I am a bit hesitant with how Baltimore will use him in 2023 if he doesn’t get off to a hot start. And we may not need to look further than the player that Westburg is replacing – Joey Ortiz. Ortiz got the call from Baltimore earlier this year. On the surface it seemed like Ortiz might get an extended look, but he was used for a few games against lefty starting pitchers before being sent back down. He got the call again recently only to mostly ride the bench and get the occasional at bat. Of course, Westburg has a lot more power than Ortiz along with a bit more draft pedigree – and Ortiz did struggle in his limited plate appearances – but it’s worth noting that Westburg might get a trial run as a short-side platoon bat before earning his way to more consistent looks. After all, the Orioles were scheduled to face two lefties in his first two games, though Westburg did also start in his third game which came against a righty. Westburg is off to a hot start (5 for his first 14) which certainly helps.
Brandon Pfaadt, P, ARI (preseason PL/team rank: 29, 3): We’ve tackled Pfaadt a few times this year. He was a popular prospect riser this offseason and as a result, I was bullish on him in my preseason bold predictions. Since then, Pfaadt has gotten the call and struggled in the bigs to the tune 8.37 ERA in five starts before being optioned back to Triple-A. I touched upon his struggles a bit in the revisit to that article a few weeks ago. In short – Pfaadt’s relatively high ERA throughout the minors should not have been overlooked, and while he is certainly better than the pitcher that we saw in the majors during his first promotion, his ceiling is a bit capped.
Since his demotion at the end of May, Pfaadt has been excellent in five starts. The right hander struck out 28 in 25.2 innings, walking just five and posting an ERA of 3.16. His best start was arguably his most recent one on June 24 where he fanned seven in seven frames while allowing just three hits and one run. The K-BB rate during this span was an excellent 22.1% – though that’s never been the question for Pfaadt. He consistently has top-end strikeout and walk rates. His Achilles heel has been the long ball and that is where most of the damage came from during these starts as Pfaadt yielded five dingers.
By the time this article posts you will already know whether or not Pfaadt had a strong outing on Thursday. He’s not a must-add for me in redraft leagues due to his tendency to allow homers.
Minor League Promotions
There weren’t many call ups to the big leagues this week so we will mix it up slightly to conclude this week’s article and take a quick look at some prospects who jumped up a level this week.
Noelvi Marte, SS/3B, CIN (Double-A to Triple-A) – Marte has had his name in prospect circles seemingly forever. During that time his stock has bounced up and down from year-to-year depending on where you look. Finally, it seems Marte is knocking on the door of the big leagues, though the Reds are suddenly stacked. Marte triple slashed .281/.356/.464 with eight home runs and 10 steals in 50 games. He probably won’t be that much of a stolen base threat as he matures, but the power should tick up even more.
Connor Phillips, P, CIN (Double-A to Triple-A) -We’re sticking in the Cincinnati organization and this time it’s one of this year’s breakout arms. Phillips tossed 64.2 innings at Double-A, notching a 3.34 ERA with 111 (!) strikeouts. His 29.6% K-BB rate is elite, though it is carried by the strikeout rate. The 9.5% walk rate is a little higher than we’d like to see and it’s the first time in his minor league career that it’s been under 10%. With that in mind, there could be some long-term relief risk here. If the Reds remain in contention it wouldn’t be surprising to see Phillips up this season.
Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, BOS (Double-A to Triple-A) – Rafaela was one of 2022’s breakout prospects. After tearing up High-A last year, he closed that campaign with 71 games in Double-A where he triple slashed .278/.324/.500 with 12 homers and 14 steals, so it was a little surprising to see him kick off 2023 back in Double-A. He’s put up similar numbers this year with a .294/.332/.441 slash with six home runs and 30 steals. He doesn’t walk much, which will ultimately cap his ceiling, but his defense and speed make him a very intriguing prospect that we could see get a cup of coffee in September.
Colt Keith, 2B/3B, DET (Double-A to Triple-A) – Keith only played in 48 games in 2022 but triple slashed .301/.370/.544 with nine homers at High-A as a 20-year-old. He picked up this year right where he left off a season ago, triple slashing .325/.391/.585 in 59 games at Double-A and has quickly established himself as one of the better bats in the minors. He homered in his first game at Triple-A and there should be many more to come. Detroit has no reason to rush him, so it’s more likely we see him next season.
Spencer Arrighetti, P, HOU (Double-A to Triple-A) – Arrighetti is starting to feel a little bit like this year’s Hunter Brown. Like Brown, he’s another arm that Houston took in the 100s a few years ago that is blossoming in the minors. Arrighetti put up a 22.1% K-BB rate with a 4.15 ERA in 60.2 innings at Double-A to start 2023 before his promotion this week. It’s a little higher of an ERA that you’d like to see and Arrighetti’s 45.5% fly ball rate means he could be susceptible to allowing some homers as he continues to climb the ladder, but the righty has quickly become a must-add in dynasty formats. He struck out five and allowed three runs in five frames in his Triple-A debut.
Photo courtesy of the Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesfdx on Twitter)