July 19, 2024

Scouting Phillies, Pirates, Orioles and Rangers prospects, including Aidan Miller

I recently had a chance to see prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers in A-ball match-ups. Below are scouting notes on several prospects, including Futures Game participants Aidan Miller, Justin Crawford and Termarr Johnson.



Mayer, Salas, Crews, Clark highlight Futures Game rosters

Aidan Miller continues to impress

Shortstop Aidan Miller was the Phillies’ 2023 first-round pick after the Florida high school infielder missed most of his senior season due to a broken hamate bone, dropping him from preseason expectations that he’d go in the top half of the round to the Phillies at No. 27. The Phillies just promoted Miller from Low-A Clearwater to High-A Jersey Shore, where I saw him for two games, and I think they got a steal at pick 27.

Miller hit an impressive .275/.401/.483 in the Florida State League, a difficult place to hit for power, with a 21 percent strikeout rate. His exit velocity there topped out at 108.1 mph, and his EV50 — the average of the top 50 percent of his batted balls — was 99.5 mph. For some sense of scale, that’s pretty much where Spencer Steer has been in the majors this year, and Steer is 26 years old while Miller just turned 20 in June. Miller has been too aggressive since the promotion, jumping on the first pitch or a pitcher’s pitch multiple times in my look, although he really only looked bad on fastballs at 94-95 mph. He’s short and quick to the ball but I’d like to see him square the ball up more consistently and stay on plane with the pitch, as I saw several swings from him where he got a little uphill and hit the top half of the ball.

I’m more impressed, or stunned, by how well Miller has played shortstop this year. He’s got a 60 arm but he’s become quicker since last summer, approaching 60 run times and showing a faster first step in the field. He made multiple tough plays that required him to move quickly and cover ground to his left, and his transfer on throws was quick — except for the one play where he dove to his left and flipped the ball from his glove to the second baseman to get a force.

I didn’t see him in high school, but the strong consensus from scouts who had seen him the summer and fall before he got hurt was that he’d end up at third base. I don’t think that’s true any more — he’s a shortstop, and with him, Bryan Rincon (Jersey Shore IL), and emerging star prospect Starlyn Caba (Complex league), the Phillies have a lot of shortstop depth to work with.

Notes on Justin Crawford, Samuel Aldegheri and other Jersey Shore prospects

Center fielder Justin Crawford played in the second of the two games I saw, this one at Wilmington, and was unremarkable other than showing his blazing speed on an attempt to bunt for a hit. I’ve previously seen better at-bats and better contact quality from him than he showed in this particular game.



Phillies 2024 top 20 prospects: Andrew Painter, Justin Crawford lead the way

Lefty Samuel Aldegheri pitched on Sunday against Greensboro and was much better than the box score might indicate, as the home plate umpire was apparently watching Bridgerton rather than the game in front of him and missed at least four clear strikes (called or checked swings) for the gentleman from Verona. Aldegheri was mostly 90-92, touching 94, with a real four pitch mix and solid-average control, although the secondary stuff does depend on him getting ahead more with the fastball than he did on Sunday.

His slider and curveball both have depth, with the slider around 83-86 the better of the two. The changeup is his weakest pitch, a 45 right now where he slows his arm slightly, although the pitch has good tail. It’s not a great delivery, as his stride is too short and his arm can be late, while he works too north-south and doesn’t have anything with significant horizontal movement. I think he’s a back-end starter unless one of the pitches takes a real leap forward. He’d especially benefit from working on the changeup or trying a splitter. (I have not seen George Klassen yet, but he’s the best pitching prospect on the current Jersey Shore roster.)

Right-hander Jaydenn Estanista was No. 18 on my Phillies list going into 2023, but spent more than half of that season on the injured list and didn’t make the cut this year. The Curacao native is back and healthy, pitching exclusively in relief now, sitting 94-95 against High-A Wilmington in a two-inning stint with a plus slider at 82-86. He’s lean and projectable with a very fast arm but an over-the-top arm slot that may make command and control a chronic issue for him. He threw strikes on Monday, 19 in 24 total pitches, but he’s walked 14 percent of batters he’s faced this year between Clearwater and Jersey Shore. He’s not Orion Kerkering but he’s in that class of relievers, with two above-average pitches and the need for a big dose of strikes.

That Jersey Shore club has some very interesting if longer-term prospects in the lineup, including catcher Luis Caicuto (no power, high-contact, plus arm, good swing, needs work on blocking), shortstop/second baseman Erick Brito (high contact, really good eye, 45 power, rough day at second base in the game that I saw), and outfielder Emaarion Boyd (elite athlete, plus raw power, great bat speed, below-average pitch recognition). Outfielder Leandro Pineda is having a solid season as well and I got one good swing out of him, as he pulled a 94 mph fastball from a right-hander down the right field line for a hard-hit groundball double. He’s repeating the level, though, and he really needs to get to Double-A Reading and show that the improved results on contact are real.

Termarr Johnson still not meeting expectations at the plate

High-A Greensboro’s star attraction was second baseman Termarr Johnson, the Pirates’ 2022 first-round pick, who’s had a disappointing pro career to date. He had a tough day on Sunday when I saw him, even though his team put 10 runs on the board. Johnson went 1-for-5 with an infield single, striking out once on a slider down from Aldegheri (so left vs. left), grounding out twice, popping up, and reaching on an error on a ground ball to second.



Pirates 2024 top-20 prospects: Paul Skenes, Termarr Johnson lead the way

He showed above-average speed and was fine at second base, but several times got pitches 91-93 in the zone and couldn’t do anything with them. Johnson had a solid June by the box scores but he’s still not close to the hitter everyone expected him to be, not with the mediocre competition he’s facing in High A.

On Thursday, I braved the beach-bound traffic to see Down East (Rangers) at Delmarva (Orioles) in a Low-A matchup featuring a top prospect from each of those two systems. The Rangers’ Echedry Vargas, a 19-year-old infielder, led off for Down East and showed a good eye in his three plate appearances (the game was only seven innings), but swung right through a bunch of sliders and didn’t have the bat speed I expected.

Delmarva’s lineup included switch-hitting infielder Leandro Arias, who hit left-handed in all of his plate appearances in this particular game and showed a great swing with a big stride that produced hard contact when he met the ball out front more. The 19-year-old Orioles infield prospect has fast hands and might actually get the bat through the zone too quickly, but when he squared one up out in front of the plate he had his best bolt of the night, a line drive where the right fielder robbed him of a hit.



Baltimore Orioles 2024 top 20 prospects: Jackson Holliday leads top farm system

Delmarva outfielder Thomas Sosa is a giant of a 19-year-old, definitely bigger than his listed 160 pounds, and he doesn’t get cheated, swinging hard, early and often. He put the ball in play three times and all were well-hit, including a pair of line-drive singles. In a good example of how a one-game look might mislead you (and me), he’s struck out almost 29 percent of the time this year, but I saw just one swing-and-miss from him. He’s also a better runner than I expected, not fast, but not a slug, either.

Braylin Tavera signed with Baltimore for a then team-record $1.7 million bonus in January 2022, but he is not ready for full-season ball — add him to the pile of players who are suffering from the loss of short-season leagues. His pitch recognition was nonexistent in the look I got, and he hasn’t had a hit since the game before the one I saw, going 0-for-his-last-16 to drop his season line to .150/.255/.181. I’m not writing him off, since he’s 19 and shouldn’t be in Low A, but I have nothing positive to offer from my look.

Down East’s starter was Jose Gonzalez, a compact 6-foot-3 right-hander with no projection, who was 89-91 and threw a ton of junk at Delmarva. He does throw a ton of strikes, which is how he’s got a 2.35 ERA, but he’s not a prospect.



Texas Rangers 2024 top 20 prospects: Wyatt Langford, Evan Carter lead the way

Delmarva started former LSU reliever Riley Cooper, listed at 6-2, 270, and I could definitely see him getting to the majors as a fastball/changeup reliever. As a starter, he only topped out at 92 and I didn’t see a decent breaking ball, but his changeup was solid and he pitches like he’s got way better stuff, attacking guys in and around the zone. He will have to manage his weight to keep his knees and back healthy, though.

(Photo of Miller: George Kubas / Diamond Images via Getty Images)