Rochester Red Wings Report: Meet the Prospects!
Dan Glickman writes about baseball at The Baseball Continuum and the Rochester Red Wings in particular at Pickin’ Splinters. He’ll provide weekly updates on the AAA Nationals affiliate during the second half of the 2022 season and potentially beyond. This is a special edition due to breaking news.
Well, it's happened. Juan Soto and Josh Bell have been sent to the San Diego Padres. Others will be able to go over the larger significance of the transaction. I, as the resident Rochester Red Wings writer, have been asked to just look at the prospects involved as well as who is coming up to Washington from Rochester.
First, the players who are arriving from San Diego. I'm not including Tyler Voit since he's a veteran. Here they are:
Mackenzie Gore, of course, isn't a prospect. He was not that long ago, though, so I'm including him. At one point one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, injury issues have caused him to fall in most people's estimations. In fact, he's injured right now and probably won't pitch until September. Still, he is only 23 and is left-handed, so it's likely he'll be able to fill some sort of spot in the Nationals rotation if he can stay on the field. If he does eventually play up to the old hype, it could make this trade look far more palatable far sooner than expected. That's a VERY big if, though. If I end up seeing him in Rochester for anything other than a rehab assignment, something has probably gone wrong.
The highest-rated prospect gained in the Soto/Bell trade is C.J. Abrams. The ninth-best preseason prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com, Abrams is not a technically a true prospect anymore given how many at-bats he's had in San Diego but can probably be considered one. A 21-year-old middle-infielder, his primary tools lie in speed and defense. The big question mark is his hitting. In the minors, there wasn't much of a problem as he hit .334 across three seasons (missing 2020 due to the pandemic). However, he hasn't been as impressive during the time he's had in San Diego, hitting .232/.285/.320 in 139 plate appearances. And, yes, as that on-base-percentage and slugging percentage suggest, he has two other issues: discipline and power. He strikes out a lot and walks very little (in his all-level professional career, he's walked 38 times and struck out 102), and he doesn't have that much pop. There certainly is plenty of time for him to improve his eye and muscle up, and doubtless Washington is hoping that happens. The big question is where he'll start in the Nationals organization. As mentioned, he's spent time in the big leagues this season, but he's also spent plenty of time in AAA. It appears that, as of now, he'll be in Rochester. For how long, though, is an open question.
Of the players currently regarded as prospects (i.e. not many if any MLB action), the biggest is Robert Hassell III. A 20-year-old outfielder currently in high-A ball for the awesomely-logo'd Fort Wayne Tincaps, he was the 37th top prospect in all of baseball preseason on MLB.com's list (he's since moved up to 21st). A left-handed outfielder who primarily has been in center but who some believe is destined for a corner spot, he's hit .299/.379/.467 this season in Fort Wayne. Somebody this young and so low in the minors is a bit of a mystery, but if he can keep putting up numbers like that as he ages and moves up the ladder he could well become the biggest and best return for the Nationals in the deal. It's likely he'll start in Wilmington but could conceivably end up in Harrisburg. If the Nats play it safe and there are no major advances or setbacks, he'll probably be in Rochester next season some time and then fighting for a spot with the Nationals in 2024. If they are aggressive and there are no major advances or setbacks, it's conceivable he could be with Nationals by the end of 2023. It appears, given that he's been assigned to Wilmington, that the Nats will be playing it safe.
James Wood is currently the 88th-top prospect in all of baseball on MLB.com's list. Only 19-years-old, the left-handed-hitting but right-handed-throwing outfielder is still in A-ball, but he's hit extremely well during his two career professional seasons thus far. Standing six-foot-seven and weighing in at 240 pounds, MLB.com's profile says that Padres officials felt he may have the highest overall ceiling among prospects in the San Diego system. Between Rookie and A-Ball, he's slashed .336/.447/.556 in 356 plate appearances, hitting 13 home runs and stealing 26 bases while only being caught five times. He'll start in Fredericksburg.
Jarlin Susana is the biggest enigma of this. An 18-year-old Dominican starting pitcher, he's only had eight games in his career thus far, and only 29.1 innings pitched! That said, what he has done in the Arizona Complex League has been pretty good: 2.45 ERA, 0.886 WHIP, and 44 strikeouts. He was the top-ranked pitcher in the 2021-2022 international class. With somebody this young and this low in the minors, though, I don't feel comfortable making any predictions, especially with a pitcher who could get injured. He's been assigned to the Florida Complex League.
And now the two guys who have reportedly been called up to Washington to fill the spots of Soto and Bell on the roster;
Joey Meneses is, arguably, one of the greatest veteran baseball player in North America who has never had an MLB appearance. The 30-year-old Mexican-born right-handed first baseman and occasional outfielder has played in 1,376 professional games in his career in the Dominican, USA, Mexico, and Japan. He has a career .280/.338/.428 slash line in 5,492 plate appearances, and was the MVP of the International League back in 2018. He represented Mexico in the Olympics in Tokyo. What he hasn't gotten, until today, was a call to the show. This day means a lot of things to a lot of people, but for Joey Meneses, it may well be the greatest day of his career. In Rochester this season, he's been an impressive part of the lineup, hitting 20 home runs and slashing .286/.341/.489. While he is extraordinarily slow on the basepaths, he often hits the ball far enough where that isn't a problem.
Finally, Josh Palacios. On Sunday, he didn't get on base. It was the first time that happened in 31 games, and the first time he didn't get a hit in 18 games. Since arriving in the Nationals organization from the Toronto system in April, Palacios has consistently been among the Red Wings' best players, even as the team struggled in July. An outfielder who hits lefty, Palacios has slashed .294/.375/.443 on the season with nine home runs and 48 RBIs and is known for his enthusiasm on the field, including doing the griddy dance after home runs. He's from a baseball family: his brother Richie made his MLB debut this season with Cleveland, and his uncle Rey played parts of three seasons with the Royals before becoming a firefighter in, ironically enough, Rochester (Rey threw out the first pitch to Josh on Sunday as part of a salute to first responders). Palacios has some MLB experience from 2021 with Toronto but this will be his first time with Washington.
So... how will it go? The honest answer: Who knows? The problem with trades with prospects is that it isn't clear just how good or bad the trade is until years later. Rest assured, though, I'll be keeping an eye on Abrams while he's in Rochester and will give updates along the way in articles like this.