Each and every day, with the exception of Monday’s (off days for all minor league teams), Dave Mullen will be picking the top three stars from the minor leagues from the day prior. Today we feature prospects from the Miami Marlins, Cleveland Guardians and Seattle Mariners.
The minor leagues are some of the most important and sometimes most ignored leagues. An organizations best prospects and even role players are throughout four or five different levels. With so much baseball happening on a daily basis, stars will emerge. Some of the names, you will know. Some of the names you will not know. We can guarantee that you will be more knowledgeable about your teams prospects if you are a daily reader.
1. Gavin Williams – Pitcher – Akron – Cleveland Guardians
Drafted with the 23rd overall pick in the 2021 draft by the Cleveland Guardians, Gavin Williams had himself a night on the mound for the Akron RubberDucks. Williams allowed only one hit across five and 2/3 innings pitched while striking out five in his first Double-A start. After a dominating nine games in High-A, Williams was promoted by the Cleveland Guardians brass recently. Williams struck out 67 High-A batters while only walking 14 across 45 innings pitched.
It is still early in Williams career but since being drafted last year out of East Carolina University, Williams has already shown great stuff and production. Coming out of college and still holding true, Williams possesses a 6’6” 240 pound frame that compliments a plus-plus fastball which can sit in the 98-100 mile per hour range. The Guardians obviously see intense development from Williams over his first ten professional games or else they would not have promoted him so soon.
2. Harry Ford – Catcher – Modesto – Seattle Mariners
The 19-year-old first round pick in the 2021 draft of the Seattle Mariners is not having the second professional season he thought he would but last night told a different story. While playing for the Modesto Nuts last night, Ford gathered four hits in six plate appearances including four runs scored. Additionally, Ford hit two triples and his fourth homerun of the year for the Seattle Mariners’ affiliate.
As an 18-year-old in 2021 with the Rookie level Mariners, Ford slashed a respectable .291/.400/.982 in only 65 plate appearances. Ford also tallied three homeruns and seven doubles. Most impressive was Ford’s knowledge of the strike zone evidenced by his 14/9 K/BB rate. In 2022, Ford is experiencing increased talent at the Low-A level and has yet to adjust. Through 189 plate appearances, Ford is slashing a pedestrian .216/.381/.726. Despite a low batting average, Ford has maintained his control of the strike zone with an impressive 48/37 K/BB ratio playing against opponents over two years older than him, on average.
Still young, Ford has work to do in order to develop into an MLB-caliber player. Out of his tools, Ford’s speed is already developed but he has a high ceiling for raw power, fielding and hitting. However, he has not even come close to his potential as evidenced by his struggles in the lower levels of the minor league system. Still, Ford is a prospect to keep an eye on with such a high ceiling and years to develop.
3. JJ Bleday – OF – Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp – Miami Marlins
The 24-year-old former first round pick of the Miami Marlins in 2019 has gotten his first taste of Triple-A competition and it looks like it will take some time to adapt. Playing against opponents that are almost two and a half years older than him, Bleday has struggled with accumulating hits but his power has shown out this year. In his first 238 plate appearances at the Triple-A level, Bleday has slashed .215/.370/.836. Although we would like to see the batting average improve, Bleday has hit 13 homeruns compared to 14 homeruns in 2021 across 468 plate appearances.
Since being drafted out of Vanderbilt by the Miami Marlins, Bleday has struggled at the plate but has shown enough promise to be steadily promoted throughout the system. Bleday has steadily shown improvement despite some struggles and you could chalk that up to ballpark factors as well as advancement of opponents. Impressively, Bleday has increased his walk rate throughout three professional seasons starting with a low of 7.3% in 2019 Hi-A Ball to an 18.5 BB% this year in Triple-A.
The Miami Marlins have to be pleased with his progress on the field and in the batters box despite the numbers. Sometimes, especially with prospects, numbers do not tell the entire story.