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Farm system storylines: May edition

Astros' Alvarez keep blasting off; Mize, Manning compete in Erie
Yordan Alvarez posted a 161 wRC+ over 29 games with Triple-A Round Rock in the month of May. (Jim Redman/
June 5, 2019

Around the start of each month, staff will break down the state of all 30 organizations with updates on their top prospects, Minor League affiliates and more in a feature called "Farm system storylines."AL East

Around the start of each month, staff will break down the state of all 30 organizations with updates on their top prospects, Minor League affiliates and more in a feature called "Farm system storylines."

AL East

 Baltimore Orioles
DJ Stewart hit safely in nine of his first 13 games for Triple-A Norfolk and owned a .261/.393/.500 batting line on April 18. That mark plummeted to .202/.356/.345 by the end of the month after a 5-for-38 stretch, and it appeared Stewart was on his way to another underwhelming International League showing in his age-25 season. Instead, the 2015 first-round pick picked up hits in six of his first eight May at-bats and never slowed down, posting six games with three or more hits on his way to a monster .456/.512/.882 slash line. Each of those marks led the Minor Leagues for the month, and Stewart's hot hitting earned him a May 28 promotion to Baltimore. -- Chris Tripodi

 Boston Red Sox
Bobby Dalbec struggled out of the gate for Double-A Portland this season and ended April hitting .197/.361/.318 with two home runs and nine RBIs. For a player whose prospect status is carried by his 60-grade power tool, it was a disheartening start. Dalbec's batting line rose gradually through the first week and a half of May before a three-homer game at Trenton bumped his OPS almost 150 points. The 23-year-old third baseman ended his month with a two-homer performance in Binghamton as well, and he finished May with eight home runs, 20 RBIs and a .955 OPS in 28 games. Triston Casas also followed up a two-homer April with an eight-homer May at Class A Greenville, but as a 19-year-old getting his first taste of full-season ball, those ups and downs are more in line with expectations. -- CT

 New York Yankees
At the end of 2017, Chance Adams was looking like a legitimate impact arm for the Yankees. Offseason elbow surgery cost him a few mph on his fastball, and his control waned in 2018 with a walk rate approaching five batters per nine innings. The 24-year-old right-hander hasn't gotten his fastball back into the mid-90s, but he's showing signs that he can succeed with low-90s heat. After posting a 6.75 ERA and walking 11 in 17 1/3 April innings, Adams rebounded with a 1.45 ERA and four walks in 18 2/3 frames during the month of May. New York gave him a chance in the Majors in the middle of the month, and it went far better than his 2018 debut; he allowed three runs on six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in two appearances out of the bullpen, spanning seven innings. Adams then closed the month back at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with six scoreless innings against Lehigh Valley. -- CT

 Tampa Bay Rays
Brendan McKay was excellent in April, but his 2.41 ERA and 33-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio pale in comparison to his nearly flawless May. Tampa's 2017 first-round pick allowed one run over 23 innings for Double-A Montgomery and earned a promotion to Triple-A Durham, where he debuted with five scoreless innings against Louisville. Overall in May, McKay posted a 0.32 ERA, struck out 33 batters and walked five over 28 innings. While the two-way star is struggling at the plate with a combined .165/.271/.231 batting line, one home run and 10 RBIs in 107 plate appearances for the year, the competitive Rays already bumped him to the Minors' highest level after eight appearances at Montgomery, so they likely won't hesitate to summon the southpaw sometime before the All-Star break if they think his arm can help the big league squad. -- CT

 Toronto Blue Jays
Patrick Murphy's baseball career has been filled with adversity, so allowing six runs in an April 20 start and watching his ERA balloon to 6.11 was just another in a long list of obstacles. Murphy fired eight innings of one-run ball to close out April, and he kept that momentum going into May by allowing three or fewer earned runs in his first four starts of the month. In a three-start stretch from May 9 to May 23, the 23-year-old right-hander allowed two runs on nine hits and two walks with 24 strikeouts in 20 innings. His final outing of the month didn't go as well -- he allowed seven runs on seven hits and four walks over 4 2/3 innings at Harrisburg -- but even with that clunker included, his 3.52 ERA and 36-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio were big improvements on his 4.56 and 24-to-10 marks, respectively, from the season's opening month. -- CT

AL Central

 Chicago White Sox
As it has for the last few seasons with Eloy Jiménez, the conversation surrounding the White Sox system now begins and ends with fellow outfielder Luis Robert, and for good reason. Robert crushed Class A Advanced pitching at Winston-Salem in April, earning a promotion to Double-A Birmingham to begin May. In the Southern League, he's continued to impress. Over 26 games with the Barons last month, Robert raked at a .311/.360/.524 clip and finished the month on a nine-game hitting streak that included five multi-hit contests. Chicago's top healthy pitching prospect, Dylan Cease was steady for Triple-A Charlotte, posting a 3.18 ERA in four starts and striking out 24 in 22 2/3 innings. -- Tyler Maun

 Cleveland Indians
With Triston McKenzie still out due to a back injury, Nolan Jones has taken over as the top active prospect in the Tribe system, and he showed why in May. The Lynchburg third baseman led all Class A Advanced hitters with a .476 on-base percentage and 27 walks -- no one had more than 21 at the level -- over 26 games in May while also hitting .299 with a .983 OPS. Going beyond just the plate discipline, he also hit four homers in May after failing to go deep over 105 plate appearances in April. Jones has a chance to be above-average with both his hit and power tools, but it's the latter that's taking some time to develop in his fourth pro season. After May, it's at least ticking up. (Speaking of power, a quick shoutout to Bobby Bradley, who led the Minors with 12 homers in May for Triple-A Columbus.) -- Sam Dykstra

 Detroit Tigers
One ranked second in the Eastern League in ERA (1.44) and sixth in WHIP (0.93) and finished with 34 strikeouts and seven walks over 31 1/3 innings in May for Double-A Erie. The other ranked fourth in the circuit with a 1.51 ERA and ninth with a 1.01 WHIP and finished with 33 K's and eight free passes over 35 2/3 innings. The former was Tigers No. 2 prospect Matt Manning. The latter was top prospect Casey Mize. Detroit has dreams of seeing both right-handers dominate in the same rotation for years to come, but those dreams have become reality in recent weeks. Mize remains the better prospect with multiple plus to plus-plus pitches and better control of the two, but Manning has put his previous wildness in the past for the most part and is making a jump on the strength of his plus fastball and impressive curve. The competition for who puts up the better numbers should continue into June and hopefully at higher levels before long. -- SD

 Kansas City Royals
Top prospect Brady Singer was already good in April. He was nothing short of great in May. In five outings with Class A Advanced Wilmington, the right-hander went 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA, 29 strikeouts against five walks in 30 innings, a 1.00 WHIP and a .243 average against. That showing earned Singer a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Back in Wilmington, left-hander and Royals No. 2 prospect Daniel Lynch was no slouch for the month either. After putting up a 4.70 ERA in five April outings, Lynch lowered that mark to 1.74 in five May starts, posting similar strikeout (28) and walk (five) totals as Singer with a lower WHIP (0.94) and average against (.211). -- TM

 Minnesota Twins
It's doubtful any Twins prospect enjoyed May more than No. 17 Luis Arraez. The left-handed-hitting utilityman opened the month by going 20-for-51 (.392) with four doubles, four walks and four strikeouts in 13 games at Double-A Pensacola before moving up to Triple-A Rochester on May 14. He was with the Red Wings for all off three games -- during which he went 5-for-14 -- before the Twins decided to give him the ultimate promotion on May 18, when Nelson Cruz moved to the injured list. Arraez made all of this possible with a hit tool that's always been special. The 22-year-old is a career .330 hitter in the Minors and has a .341 average over 43 games in the Minors this season. Unfortunately, there's little power behind the average, but the Twins liked the bat enough to get Arraez 10 games of playing time before he was optioned back to Rochester on Monday. He made the most of it, going 9-for-24 (.375) with a homer, two doubles and five walks in those 10 games, and with experience at second, third, shortstop and left field this season, it might not be long before the AL Central leaders summon Arraez back. -- SD

AL West

 Houston Astros
What is to be done with Yordan Alvarez? If you're a Pacific Coast League pitcher, you probably answered, "Promote him!" Astros fans can be forgiven for offering the same response; forget that Houston is leading the division by 7.5 games, forget the deep outfield, forget that Alvarez is 21 and, entering June 1, had seen only 139 games at the higher levels of the Minors. In the 51 of those games that came with Triple-A Round Rock this season, he bashed 21 homers (second most in the Minors) -- batting .361 with eight jacks and a .360 average in May. Now… what's to be done with Forrest Whitley? -- Josh Jackson

 Los Angeles Angels
Jo Adell's season finally began. The Angels' top prospect -- and No. 14 overall prospect -- was on the injured list with a right ankle sprain and a left hamstring strain until May 24, when he returned to action with Class A Advanced Inland Empire. The 20-year-old center fielder spent 57 games with the 66ers last year (playing 25 with Class A Burlington and one with Double-A Mobile), and he needed little time to play his way out of the California League again. He homered in back-to-back games on May 27-28 and tallied 14 total bases over six games through the end of the month. The quick progression has given the BayBears the Angels' top three position-playing prospects, with Jahmai Jones and Brandon Marsh (who hit the IL with a leg injury on June 1) having opened the year there. -- JJ 

 Oakland Athletics
In their second month of existence, the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators are flying high. Through May, they've scored an average of more than six runs per game, getting huge contributions from No. 8 Oakland prospect Jorge Mateo and No. 9 Sheldon Neuse. The former, whose speed is by far his best tool, crushed six homers, six doubles and three triples while posting a .315/.344/.556 line in 28 games. The latter, a powerful third baseman, hit .280/.376/.495 with four dingers over 26 games. These performances helped the Aviators stay competitive in the Pacific Coast League's Pacific Southern Division despite the May 4 loss of No. 40 overall prospect Sean Murphy to a torn meniscus in his left knee. -- JJ

 Seattle Mariners
May came in with one big prospect promotion to Class A Modesto and ended with another. Right-hander Logan Gilbert (ranked No. 99 overall) made his Cal League debut on May 2, and although it was his roughest of the month (three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings), he did fan seven. Through four more starts, he punched out 27 to total 34 in 26 innings for the Nuts, all while limited the opposition to five earned runs. Jarred Kelenic got the bump to Modesto on May 30 and swatted a prodigious long ball in his debut. That came after the No. 42 overall prospect went yard 11 times in 50 Class A games, batting .309 for West Virginia. -- JJ

 Texas Rangers
Coming into the year, Leody Taveras was a speed demon with a propensity for making incredible plays in the outfield but hadn't put together a season that matched his potential on the offensive side of the ball. That's probably changing. After batting .303/.367/.394 with Class A Advanced Down East in April, the 20-year-old switch-hitter posted a .301/.373/.408 line in May, swiping 11 bags in 27 games. He's never previously hit higher than .271 or stolen more than 20 bases in a season. The 18 thefts he had three games into June put him in a tie for second in the Carolina League. -- JJ

NL East

 Atlanta Braves
Kyle Muller couldn't find the strike zone very well in April, walking 21 in 19 innings over five starts in the season's opening month for Double-A Mississippi. Both Muller and the Braves staff discovered he was pulling off pitches in his delivery, worked to correct it and then rode those adjustments to a much more special May. The left-hander's walk rate dropped from 25 percent in April to 8.7 percent this past month while he finished May with a 0.81 ERA (third-best in Double-A), 0.96 WHIP and 33 strikeouts over 33 1/3 innings. Muller ranks as the Braves' No. 11 prospect at present but with increased velocity to the mid-90s (even touching 97) and a good breaking ball coming from his 6-foot-6 frame, he has the foundation to make a jump in 2019. He's also putting together the results needed to make that happen. -- SD

 Miami Marlins
In April, it was just good to see Braxton Garrett on the field again, after the Marlins' No. 7 prospect and 2016 first-rounder missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. In May, he kicked things into another gear. The 21-year-old left-hander posted a 1.57 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 10 walks over four starts (23 innings) last month. Because he's been held to pitching just once a week, he missed the qualifying standards for the Florida State League, but that ERA would have tied for the best in the circuit otherwise. When healthy, Garrett has earned raves for his plus curveball and above-average fastball and changeup, and that's helped him fan 30.9 percent of the batters he's faced this season, fourth-best in the FSL among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched. It's also been promising to see him regain decent control (18 walks in 40 1/3 innings on the season) coming off surgery. At a time when the Fish need all the prospect help they can get, Garrett's health and development are welcome storylines. -- SD

 New York Mets
Mets fans might be growing used to hearing about promising young shortstops climbing through the lower ranks. First, there was Amed Rosario. Then came Andrés Giménez. Next up was expected to be No. 90 overall prospect Ronny Mauricio, who opened the season at Class A Columbia shortly after turning 18 in early April. After a hot start, the South Atlantic League looked like it was figuring out the switch-hitter as his season average dropped as low as .261 on May 9. But Mauricio turned things around in short order, hitting .327 with one homer (his only of the season) and five doubles over his final 12 games of the month and ending May with a .281/.327/.357 line through 49 games. Ebbs and flows are typical of the teenage experience in Class A ball, and that goes double for Mauricio, who was the second-youngest player in the Sally League on Opening Day. But the fact that he's trending up again should provide some relief to those in Queens. -- SD

 Philadelphia Phillies
With Adam Haseley joining the Major League club, his June might be already more memorable than his May. But the Phillies' No. 3 prospect set himself up for this opportunity because of his breakout second month of the season. After hitting just .172 with a .598 OPS for Double-A Reading in April, the 2017 first-rounder hit .337/.410/.584 with five homers over 24 games last month, prompting a move up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 29. He played only six games for the IronPigs, going 8-for-25 (.320) with three doubles before Andrew McCutchen's knee injury prompted a move up to the bigs. Haseley's turnaround was bound to come at some point, considering he had just a .180 BABIP in April, but he showed more power in May, something that had been his only below-average tool entering the season. -- SD 

 Washington Nationals
The Nationals have experienced a lot of problems at the Major League level the last few weeks, but one of the most noticeable was in the bullpen. It just so happened that No. 18 prospect Tanner Rainey was improving his stock in the Triple-A Fresno 'pen at the right time. The 26-year-old right-hander, who throws in the upper-90s and sports a plus slider, didn't allow a run over his first six Pacific Coast League appearances in May. He struck out 15 of the 25 batters he faced in that span while walking only one. Rainey was called up to Washington on May 18 for the first time after being acquired from the Reds back in December, and he's helped calm the relief woes in the nation's capital since. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and three walks whie fanning eight over five innings in the Majors in May, mostly working in middle relief. That should set Rainey's mind at ease as well, considering he got shelled to the tune of 19 earned runs over seven innings across three Major League call-ups to Cincinnati last season. With his arsenal, Rainey was always better than those results, and now, he could give the Nats fans someone other than Sean Doolittle to be excited about out of the 'pen. -- SD

NL Central

 Chicago Cubs
Javier Assad might be a pitcher, but it was his foot that first put him on the map in May. The 21-year-old went to field a ground ball hit to his left, but the ball fell out of his glove. As he kept moving toward first, Assad kicked the ball to the first baseman, securing the out and a viral nominee for play of the year. But the right-hander shined on the mound, too. After a rough April, Assad notched a 2.05 ERA with an 0.95 WHIP in 30 2/3 innings across five starts for Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. -- Kelsie Heneghan

 Cincinnati Reds
Soon after the calendar turned, top prospect Nick Senzel was called up to The Show, and a couple days later, his roommate, Josh VanMeter followed. With those two in Cincinnati, Brian O'Grady stepped up as not just a top slugger for Triple-A Louisville, but for the entire International League as he led the circuit with 76 total bases. Highlighted by his first career three-homer game, the left-handed batter left the yard 10 times. With the big month, O'Grady tied a personal best with 14 long balls this season. And there should still be plenty more roundtrippers in his future. -- KH

 Milwaukee Brewers
After a decent pro debut last summer, Brice Turang raked like the first-rounder he is to begin his first full season. And in May, he proved it wasn't just a fluke. The Brewers No. 3 prospect hit .308/.400/.402 with 15 RBIs and his first home run with Class A Wisconsin last month. Turang also got to stretch his legs and showcase his best tool (speed) with eight stolen bases. While his hit tool grades as average, many think the 19-year-old could have a high ceiling one day. And after a big couple months, he's proving one day could be sooner than they once thought. -- KH

 Pittsburgh Pirates
Mitch Keller has been the Pirates' top prospects for years. And in May, he finally made it to The Show. It was a rough first big league inning, but the 23-year-old settled in to retire 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. Keller was returned to Triple-A Indianapolis, but he got that first start out of the way and he will be more prepared for next time. Prior to the promotion, the No. 21 overall prospect went 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA, 24 strikeouts and six walks in 22 innings across four International League starts. -- KH

 St. Louis Cardinals
Dylan Carlson had arguably the best month of his career in May, but it didn't start off that way. The 20-year-old switch-hitter went 9-for-40 (.225) in the first 10 games. And half of Carlson's 22 strikeouts came in that tough start. Carlson was able to turn it around, though, notching a .304/.393/.559 slash line with seven stolen bases in nine attempts for Double-A Springfield. Each stat marked a career-best for a single month of Carlson's four seasons in pro ball. And while speed might be the 2016 first-rounder's "weakest" tool, he already has a personal-best 10 steals for the season. -- KH

NL West

 Arizona Diamondbacks
Top pitching prospect Jon Duplantier made six combined appearances in May: three for Triple-A Reno and three with the big club. At the Major League level, Duplantier is holding his own as a reliever with a 2.25 ERA in five appearances. With the Aces, things weren't quite as smooth last month. In three starts totaling just 8 1/3 innings, Duplantier posted an 8.64 ERA over three different stints in the Pacific Coast League. One step down the ladder, catcher Daulton Varsho is getting his bat sorted out. After batting .221 with a .766 OPS in 19 April games, Varsho upped those numbers to .289 and .831 in 24 May contests, matching his April totals with four homers and 12 RBIs. One name to keep an eye on is outfielder Alek Thomas, Arizona's second-round selection a year ago. Through 48 games this season with Class A Kane County, the 19-year-old is hitting .311/.395/.494 and making a push for Midwest League All-Star recognition. -- TM

 Colorado Rockies
The long-awaited arrival of 2015 first-round pick Brendan Rodgers finally came in May for Rockies fans. It happened thanks in part to Rodgers' monster month. The shortstop played just 11 games for Triple-A Albuquerque last month but tore the cover off the ball, batting an eye-popping .442/.489/.721 with three home runs and eight RBIs to earn his first Major League call. At Double-A Hartford, last year's California League batting champion Colton Welker is making a run at the Eastern League's top spot. Welker left May a .308 hitter -- a top-10 mark in the circuit -- with an .838 OPS. At Class A Advanced Lancaster, last year's first-round selection Ryan Rolison continued to impress, posting a 2.20 ERA in five starts while calling the Minors' most hitter-friendly ballpark his home. And while many have written him off, Riley Pint is showing signs of life at Class A Asheville. Working out of the Tourists' bullpen, the former fourth-overall pick made 14 appearances in May, all one inning or shorter. After allowing four runs in a third of an inning on May 2, Pint posted a 1.86 ERA in his next 13 outings, striking out 13 with six walks and a paltry opponents' average of .152. -- TM

 Los Angeles Dodgers
Shortstop Gavin Lux saw action in 26 games in May. He got hits in 19 of them. Lux raked throughout the month, putting up a .324/.393/.598 slash line with eight home runs and 16 driven in for Double-A Tulsa. His teammate, catcher Keibert Ruiz, likewise found a good stride with the bat last month. Ruiz entered May as a .243/.288/.311 hitter before heating up with a .303/.411/.355 showing in 22 contests for the month. Up at Triple-A Oklahoma City, catcher Will Smith earned his first call to the big leagues thanks to a .290/.404/.551 performance through his first 38 games in the Pacific Coast League. That line included marks of .304/.402/.582 in 21 May games. On the pitching side, right-hander Mitchell White used a strong early May to earn a promotion of his own to Triple-A. White tallied a 1.04 ERA over 17 1/3 innings across three starts for Tulsa, though he scuffled in his first three outings with Oklahoma City to a 7.71 mark and three losses. -- TM

 San Diego Padres
Left-hander MacKenzie Gore continues to steal the show with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore. The 2017 third-overall pick made five starts for the Storm and dominated opponents, allowing just three earned runs in 27 1/3 innings for a 0.99 ERA to go along with 35 strikeouts and six walks. As of May 31, Gore led the league in ERA (1.17), wins (five), opponents average (.145) and WHIP (0.67) while ranking second with 73 strikeouts. After spending 11 games in the big leagues in April, infielder Luis Urías returned to Triple-A El Paso to continue crushing Pacific Coast League pitching. Over 27 games for the Chihuahuas last month, Urias batted .351/.462/.608 with six home runs and 15 RBIs. Down the ladder at Class A Fort Wayne, speedy shortstop Xavier Edwards has torn up the Midwest League. In May, Edwards batted .378/.431/.441 and walked 10 times against 14 strikeouts. -- TM

 San Francisco Giants
While top Giants prospects Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos have dealt with injury early on this season, some quieter talents are taking steps forward. Right-handed pitcher Jake Wong made the jump from Class A Augusta to Class A Advanced San Jose after posting a 1.00 ERA in three starts to begin May with the GreenJackets. Outfielder Chris Shaw pushed his way out of Double-A Richmond and up to Triple-A Sacramento after raking at a .305/.385/.505 rate in 26 May games for the Flying Squirrels. The Giants' system is in a unique position in that many of its highest-rated prospects will be getting their seasons or careers started in June as short-season leagues get rolling. Shortstop Marco Luciano (No. 3), third baseman Luis Toribio (No. 9), outfielder Alexander Canario (No. 10) and outfielder Jairo Pomares (No. 12) are among those who haven't played yet this year but will soon. -- TM