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Eye Catching MiLB Starts

A name or two from each minor league level who has turned heads with through a handful of games

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Fayetteville Woodpeckers

There’s little data on the bottom rung of the Astros’ full season ladder right now, as adverse weather conditions have limited the club to just four games, but a pair of blue chip talents have gotten off to strong starts that are encouraging, if difficult to draw conclusions from. Dauri Lorenzo, who received the club’s largest international bonus in 2019, has gotten his first taste of full season ball this year and has responded well, managing three singles in his first five plate appearances. A compact, switch hitting infielder, Lorenzo projects to stick up the middle somewhere, with second base probably being most likely. His offensive approach is liner oriented and he probably won’t be a huge slugging threat, but there’s enough juice in his bat to support his impressive contact ability. He could ascend rankings quickly with continued success, as there’s plenty of ceiling.

Perhaps the most exciting start on the roster, however, has been that of 2022 overslot 11th rounder Ryan Clifford, who has reached base 10 times in his first 20 plate appearances, and already has his first home run of the year. His tidy strikeout total of 5 has been a welcome sight as well, as questions about his contact ability are the biggest blemish on his profile, which is headlined by double-plus raw power. If he can continue to show impressive on base ability, he can become a top prospect in the organization in short order.

Asheville Tourists

Like Fayetteville, Asheville has also been limited by weather conditions, and have played just three games thus far. Despite this exceedingly sparing sample, it has been hard not to notice the early season exploits of ranked prospect Kenedy Corona, who has come out of the gates blistering hot, going 6 for 12 with a pair of home runs. An outfielder with speed, Corona enjoyed a breakout season in 2022, connecting on 18 home runs and stealing 28 bags in 36 attempts. He has a chance to be a significant major league player at some point with his broad range of tools and skills, and it’s good to see him picking up where he left off. If he stays hot, he should find himself in Double-A in short order, as he’s in his second stint with Asheville already and is 23 years old.

Corpus Christi Hooks

Late blooming slugger Scott Schreiber, who impressed in his AFL stint, has two home runs in the early going and could be ticketed for an early promotion given his advanced age. He’s never going to make a ton of contact, but could be a useful bench piece with big pop and enough versatility to make a manager’s job easier. Another good start has been that of Shay Whitcomb, who was very uneven in 2022, leading to a rough season line. Whitcomb is repeating the level at age 24, but could reestablish stock with a resurgent performance as he pairs an up the middle glove with solid average power potential. The infielder is 5 for 18 with a homer and two doubles thus far, walking twice against four strikeouts.

Sugar Land Space Cowboys

With the Triple-A season starting sooner, some of their arms have already taken two turns in the rotation, including Forrest Whitley, who has been the most eye catching player on the roster thus far in my book. Whitley was solid in spring training, and most importantly looked fully healthy, and has largely carried that over to regular season play. The 25 year old righty has turned in a pair of 4 inning appearances thus far, and was particularly impressive last night, when he struck out 7 against 2 walks and just 1 hit allowed. It remains to be seen whether or not Whitley can manage something resembling a full starter’s workload without injuries getting in the way, but it’s encouraging to see that his stuff hasn’t been diminished much by all of the healthy obstacles.