Baseball America is considered (I think) the preeminent prospect ranking publication in the industry. So, obviously, I will watch to see which former Valley Leaguers are getting some positive press in its pages.
BA just released its Top 30 prospect rankings for each major league team, and six former Valley Leaguers have made the lists- from as early as #1 to as late as #28. Take a look:
- Kyle Nicolas (Charlottesville 2018) is Miami’s #17 prospect. He gets high marks for his “plus-plus” fastball that sits 96 mph and often hits 100. Scouts aren’t sure if he’ll end up as a starter or reliever.
- Graham Ashcraft (Waynesboro 2018) is Cincinnati’s #28 prospect. Ashcraft has struggled with injuries in the past, but he can still run it up there at 97 mph. He really needs a full minor league season in 2021.
- Thad Ward (Staunton 2016) is Boston’s #10 prospect. He throws a sinker that runs at 93-96 mph, and has a “putaway” slider. Ward was awesome in 2019; he went 8-5, 2.14, with 157 K’s in 126 1/3 innings split between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem. (I watched him pitch for Salem once that year, and he was as good as advertised.)
- Nate Pearson (Staunton 2016) is the big one- he’s Toronto’s #1 prospect, and will be named a top five prospect in the entire sport later on this year, I’m sure. Pearson, a huge 6-foot-6, 250 lbs, has hit 104 mph on the gun in his career, and easily sits 94-98, with a plus slider and developing curve and changeup. He made his major league debut in 2020, but landed on the injured list with a strained flexor tendon. He returned for the playoffs, and in his only appearance blasted through two innings, striking out five of his six batters faced. He’s incredible to watch when he’s on!
- Jonathan Bowlan (New Market 2016) is Kansas City’s #10 prospect. Bowlan, as big a man as Pearson, throws a heavy, 93-96 mph fastball, and shows promise with both a slider and changeup. Bowlan almost threw as well as Ward in 2019, going 11-5, 3.14, with 150 K’s in 146 innings split between Low-A Lexington and High-A Wilmington.
- Kyle McCann (Harrisonburg 2017) is Oakland’s #21 prospect. Oddly the only position player on this list, McCann spent 2020 at Oakland’s alternate site, and impressed with his defensive improvement at catcher. He also shows above-average power to all fields.