This season, Eric and Tess Taruskin will each have a minor league recap post that will run during the week, with the previous post recapping some of the action from the weekend. You can read previous installments of our prospect notes here.
Ziegler was generating enough buzz during minor league spring training that a scout in Arizona mentioned his name to me completely off-the-cuff, as a warning that he might burst. A Toronto-area Canadian high school student, Ziegler was in a bind ahead of the 2021 draft as travel restrictions were going to make it difficult for him to be seen by scouts. He transferred to TNXL Academy, a track and field “school” in Florida, for his pre-draft spring. The Mets made him their second-round pick and signed him for just over $900,000, then shut him down during the regular season.
He came out hot to start 2022, at least from a bat-free standpoint, with last Friday’s outing being his most effective from a batting throwing standpoint. Ziegler’s stuff isn’t noticeably different from what he had in high school, though he mixes his secondary stuff more heavily. He’s used his fastball more than 75% of the time on the summer showcase circuit, but his usage has been closer to 50% so far this year. Ziegler’s trademark breaking ball and mid-80s switch show potential for missing bat, although the former has a much more consistent finish. Although Ziegler lacks the frame of the prototypical pitcher at a mature enough six-foot height, his delivery is very athletic, with power and balance he shows in his lower half and flexibility in his upper back. generating optimism that it could still throw harder than its current 91-96 mph range. Ziegler’s “lack” of height and the way he goes deep into his legs on his delivery gives his fastball a hard-to-hit line. The change and general refinement of the controls is all that stands between Ziegler and a reasonably comfortable projection in a rotation.
Hoeing is a lanky right-hander who throws strikes with a sinking/flowing 90s fastball that lives in the bottom third of the zone. At 6-foot-5 with broad shoulders, Hoeing has an inning-eating build and an inning-eating pitcher’s approach, as he’s run 4.5 percent of ultra-effective pro hitters. He fills out the lower third of the area with his hard-to-raise heater that induces a lot of ground balls, as well as a slow two-plane slurve in the 80s, which isn’t particularly nasty but has enough depth to prevent hitters from squaring it. If there’s one missing bat pitch here, it’s the switch from Hoeing, who he’s used more often this season so far than he did in 2021. Without a top bid at the average to rely on, it’s hard to project Hoening into a consistent big league role, but he’s an extreme hitter and is starting to put together a strong stats record at the higher levels, so he’s in a position to win. be a top-tier depth starter, which the Marlins will need to keep pace in a crowded NL East.
Massey is another of the college position players in the 2019 draft who are difficult to assess on paper as they missed the 2020 season due to the pandemic, creating a gap in their performance record and a mismatch between their age and level. of performance on the back of this gap. Massey is not only in that bucket, but he was also dealing with a back issue that impacted his performance in 2019. Sent to High-A in 2021, he had a huge season, slashing .289/ .351/.531, with an additional 50. -hits (including 21 home runs) and an impressive strikeout rate of 15.5%. Sure, he was a 23-year-old college hitter who smashed the A pitch, even though he hadn’t been healthy and active for two years.
Not all underlying visual and statistical evidence supports Massey’s 2021 line. Although it has striking elements (the short-lever Massey is adept at catching fastballs on the inside third), its swing is relatively grooved and it tends to be vulnerable to balls that break the back foot, and that is a fairly aggressive swinger. Its maximum output speeds aren’t what you’d expect from someone who just hit 21 bombs, resting comfortably below par, and the same goes for Massey’s barrel rate. However, his swing is so geared to lift that he seems likely to hit for power in the game even though he doesn’t have a big raw, due to how often he hits the ball in the air. . Massey has only ever played second base in pro ball and he probably needs to start branching out into other positions as he doesn’t quite have the hitting/power combination to project himself as a second baseman. daily. He’s not a candidate to try to move up the defensive spectrum, especially not in an organization that’s shortstop-loaded in front of him. Instead, I’ll be looking for him to get reps at third base and outside corners en route to a left-hitter utility role.
Liberatore continues to follow the miners without experiencing any developmental issues, and in fact has amassed far more big-game experience than all but a few pitchers his age. Last year, he retired a batter per inning at the age of 21 who spent the entire season at Triple-A Memphis, started the Futures Game for the National League and pitched for Team USA at the Games. Olympics.
Libby did all of this amid a change in her use of the court. The slider he learned on the fly as a high school student has now become his most-used secondary pitch, and the flowing/tail fastball shape that seemed to hamper his heater’s effectiveness actually helped set up his change, that Liberatore has terrific cueing feeling, especially for a pitcher his age. The magnificent high-arc curveball that made us all swoon when Liberatore was an amateur has in fact become its least-used offering. It’s still useful as a way for him to get back into the counts or as a show-stopping argument the second or third time in order, but it’s too slow and too easy to identify from his hand to be a dominant finishing ground. .
Libby’s four-pitch package is seasoned with all sorts of nifty, Cueto-esque delivery variations that mess up batters’ timing and keep them from playing more full than dominant stuff. Although he is not expected to be added to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster until the end of the season, Liberatore is ready right now and could be a superior option to several of the other higher-tier Cardinals on the 40-man roster in the event. where the team’s current rotation is once again dealing with injuries.
Although highly effective in his first three outings of the season, Muller resumed showing scatter fastball control in his final Triple-A start before being promoted for a ride into the big league rotation on Sunday at the during which he really struggled. He threw strikes with his fastball at a rate between 65 and 71 percent in each of his first three starts, then just 50 percent on April 23, which preceded his Sunday night clunker. Now nearly six years into his draft, Muller still lacks a consistent sense for his fastball. It’s a nasty enough ground that it’s probably fine even if it throws inaccurate strikes, but it throws a lot of non-competitive radiators. He has a more consistent feel to locating his slider (which really only plays like a chase step) and his change, which he’s started throwing more often this year.
Although he has some mid-rotation stuff – mid-90s warmth on the left side, two good breaking balls and enough feel for a below-average change that he has some use – Muller is now in his second-year option and most of the sand-throwing strike crossed the hourglass. In a vacuum, it’s easy to send Muller into the bullpen long-term, and in most cases, you’d assume that would happen soon. But the Braves have tended to leave their young starters inclined to walk the Triple-A rotation as starting depth for as long as possible, opting to fill their big league bullpen with veteran free agents rather than see if someone like Muller, or so Touki Toussaint, or one of the many prospects for whom this is true, can find another gear in the bullpen. So unless he suddenly becomes less prone to implosion, Muller is likely to be a high and a low each of the next two seasons.