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Is It Time To Buy On These Struggling A-Ball Prospects?

Minor League Baseball is back and some of the game’s top prospects are off to stellar starts to the season. For some top MLB prospects, it’s been rough sledding early on which leads me to ask. Is it time to buy into some of these slow starts? For most of the dynasty managers out there hitting the panic button on prospects in April is not something that is advised yet we see prospects off to slow starts packaged in deals to cure the early season blues. In this article, we will focus on some of the top prospects in the game currently at High-A struggling and see if it’s time to buy.

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Prospects To Buy In High-A?

Sebastian Walcott, SS TEX

(15 GP, .182/.262/.255, 4 R)

One of the top international signees of the 2023 international signing period Sebastian Walcott was on a rocket up the Ranger’s organizational ladder before the ink dried on the contract. The 6’4” 190-pound shortstop out of the Bahamas has had potential plus power and speed grades but it’s the contact skills that might be holding him back. The largest sample size we saw from Walcott was in 35 games played in Complex League where he slashed .273/.325/.524 with seven home runs, 26 runs scored, 19 RBIs, and nine stolen bases. Even with the fantastic numbers the strikeout rate was still 32.5% well above what we wanted to see this early on. Dispute the struggles with the strikeout rates the Rangers promoted Walcott to High-A Hickory straight out of the Complex League.

Now back in High-A Hickory to start the 2024 season Walcott has gotten off to a rough start. In his 15 games played Walcott is slashing .182/.262/.255 with four runs scored. Early on the strikeout rate is back up to 34.4% showing little improvement in his mechanics over the 2023 season. There is a bright spot in the walk rate of 9.8% and as I have seen live Walcott has hit the ball with authority when he makes contact. Of Walcotts 10 hits three have been for extra bases. This might be a case of a young prospect being overmatched by advanced pitching (for his age) but from what I’ve seen in person with the approach at the plate and loud contact he makes there is definitely an upside to be had here as Walcott gets comfortable.

Xavier Isaac, 1B TBR

(14 GP, .204/.290/.370, 2 HR, 10 R, 17 RBI, 3 SB)

One of the highest risers last season was the Rays’ power-hitting first base prospect Xavier Isaac. The former first-round pick by the Rays in the 2022 MLB Draft out of high school Isaac impressed slashing .266/.380/.462 with 13 home runs, 58 runs scored, 56 RBIs, and 10 stolen bases in 90 games played at Low-A Charleston before being promoted to High-A Bowling Green. Once he was with the Hot Rods Isaac went off slashing .408/.491/.898 with six home runs, 13 runs scored, 16 RBIs, and two stolen bases in just 12 games played. He was playing on a whole different level in 2023 walking 14.4% while striking out just 21.2% of his 433 plate appearances.

This season the Rays sent Isaac back to High-A Bowling Green where the 20-year-old has gotten off to a cold start to the season. In 14 games, he is slashing .204/.290/.370 with two home runs, 10 runs scored, 17 RBIs, and three stolen bases. What has been concerning to this point is the drop in the walk rate from 14.4% the year prior to 9.7% and the spike in the strikeout rate to 37.1%. When it comes to Isaac’s BABIP it’s much lower than the scorching start he had at High-A the year prior (.452) but more in line with his career average leaving more questions than answers. I don’t expect Isaac to struggle this badly throughout the season but I doubt we see the results we saw in 23’ at High-A either.

More than likely we will see him get back to a .260-.270 hitter with solid OBP and 25-30 home run pop. The strikeout rate should come back down as well leading this to be a solid buy opportunity for the manager who is uncertain of what is to come.

Tommy Troy, SS ARI

(12 GP, .184/.231/.286, 1 HR, 8 R, 3 RBI, 5 SB)

Selected in the first round of the 2023 MLB Draft out of Stanford Tommy Troy is an advanced hitter with above-average speed. Once in the Diamondbacks organization, we started to see why he went 12th overall as he made his debut in the Complex League. Troy slashed .455/.563/.636 with four runs scored, five RBIs, and one stolen bases in four games played displaying an excellent 25% walk percentage and striking out just 12.5%. Since then, however, the results have been so-so. In 23 games played with the Hillsboro Hops Troy slashed just .247/.343/.447 with four home runs, 13 runs scored, 16 RBIs, and eight stolen bases. Although not what we saw in the short sample in the Complex League the results were solid for Troy who finished with a .304 BABIP.

Back in Hillsboro to start the 2024 season however has not been a walk in the park for Troy. In 12 games played Troy is slashing .184/.231/.286 with one home run, eight runs scored, three RBIs, and five stolen bases. What has been encouraging despite the lack of average and OBP has been the decrease in the strikeout rate to 19.2% over last season and the extremely low BABIP of .211 indicating better days should be coming soon. Dynasty managers with Tommy Tory on your team hold on better results look to be on the horizon. This would make it prime time to buy into Tommy Tory for even a fraction of a discount thanks to the lackluster start to the season.

Jackson Ferris, LHP LAD

(4 GS, 16 IP, 20 K, 11.25 K/9, 6.19 BB/9, 5.63 ERA)

Now in his second professional season, Jackson Ferris has gotten off to a slow start in some aspects with his new team. Originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the second round of the 2022 MLB draft out of high school Ferris stood out as a pitcher with high upside. His first season was solid playing the entire season in Low-A Myrtle Beach. In 18 games played Ferris struck out 77 batters across 56 innings pitched, good for a 12.38 K/9 with a .177 average against, and finished the year with a 3.38 ERA. The only drawback to a solid season in Low-A was the walk rate at 5.30 BB/9 slightly above where you would like it to be but overall solid season.

Traded over the off-season as part of the Michael Busch trade, Ferris seemed poise to have a massive season with the Dodgers organization. The Dodgers are known for their development of prospects on the pitching and hitting side so this move looked to be a benefit to Ferris and to this point in the young season it has its bright spots but areas to improve. In four starts with High-A Great Lakes Ferris has 20 strikeouts over 16 innings pitched, good for a 11.25 K/9 which is solid. The walk’s per nine are up to 6.19 along with the average against at .238,  paired with the 5.63 ERA. To this point, Ferris has only given up one home run but the increase in walks has had 12 runs scored on him with 10 being earned.

The FIP indicates Ferris has been a bit unlucky but only to a 4.27 FIP so improvements need to be made and I’m sure the Dodgers will get him back on track. This might not be a massive discount trade target but still one who could be a solid addition to any dynasty manager’s minor league system.

Ethan Salas, C SDP

(14 GP, .216/.328/.294, 1 R, 6 RBI, 2 SB)

Like Sebastian Walcott of the Rangers, Ethan Salas was arguably the top international signee in the 2023 International class. The Padres moved Salas quickly bypassing the Dominican Summer League altogether sending the 17-year-old prospect straight to Low-A. Despite low batting averages and stats the Padres pushed Salas to finish the season in Double-A. Regardless of the .248/.331/.421 slash line at all three levels Salas displayed a solid approach at the plate not appearing to be outmatched even at a young age.

To start the 2024 season the Padres opted to send the now 18-year-old Salas back to High-A Fort Wayne. In 14 games played Salas is slashing .216/.328/.294 with one run scored, six RBIs, and two stolen bases. What has remained constant is the 14.8% walk percentage paired with a steady 24.6% strikeout rate through his 61 plate appearances on par with his career average. Salas currently has a .297 BABIP indicating we could see better returns for the young catching phenom. This could be a prime time to buy into Salas before the numbers start to come around as everything under the hood looks primed to go.

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