Prospect Roundup: Games of Aug. 20

Rays' Liberatore continues GCL run; Bucs' Swaggerty goes deep

Matthew Liberatore has held opposing GCL batters to a .170 average through eight starts. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | August 21, 2018 12:30 PM

Theme of the day

Young guns: The Braves called up No. 13 prospect Bryse Wilson to make his Major League debut in Pittsburgh. When he took the hill (and eventually tossed five scoreless innings), the 20-year-old right-hander became the youngest pitcher to start a game this season. On the Minor League side, there were plenty of other youngsters stealing headlines. No. 100 overall prospect Nolan Gorman homered twice for Class A Peoria, a little more than two months after the Cardinals took him 19th overall in the Draft out of high school. Not to be outdone, 17-year-old shortstop and No. 40 overall prospect Wander Franco had three hits, including a go-ahead homer, for the Rays' Rookie-level affiliate Princeton.

Video: Peoria's Gorman knocks second homer of game

Who stayed hot

Rays LHP Matthew Liberatore, GCL Rays: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K -- Take complex-level stats for high-school Draft picks however you like -- this year's No. 16 overall Draft pick has had a dominant run. The 18-year-old southpaw set a career high with eight strikeouts and has not allowed an earned run in five starts covering 21 2/3 innings. His ERA and WHIP are now equal at 0.98 and he's struck out 32 and walked 11 in 27 2/3 frames overall in the Gulf Coast League. Liberatore was ranked as the Draft's No. 4 overall prospect by MLB.com on the strength of his four-pitch mix (fastball, curve, slider, change) and size (6-foot-5, 200 pounds), but he dropped much lower due to worries about whether he would sign. He ended up signing for below slot at $3,497,500 with the Rays, and neither side has looked back since.

Who needed this one

Pirates OF Travis Swaggerty, Class A West Virginia: 2-for-5, HR, RBI, 2 R, 2 K -- The Pirates first-rounder got off a slow start in his introduction to the South Atlantic League, going 2-for-17 (.118) with five strikeouts in his first four games with the Power. He broke out with a solo homer the opposite way to left field in the fifth inning for his first Class A homer and first homer at any level since July 31. He also singled an inning earlier, giving him his first multi-hit game with a full-season affiliate. It was just a minor slump for MLB.com's No. 85 overall prospect, who still has the potential to be average to above-average with all five of his tools. Between both West Virginias, Swaggerty is hitting .273/.343/.447 with five homers and nine steals in 41 games this summer.

The unexpected

Royals OF Brewer Hicklen, Class A Lexington: 3-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI, R, K, 3 SB -- The Royals promoted their No. 21 prospect from Lexington to Class A Advanced Wilmington on July 18, only to return him to the Sally League a month later after he hit just .211/.263/.310 in 22 Carolina League games. The 22-year-old outfielder, whose speed was given a 65 grade by MLB.com, reached base three times and set a season high with three stolen bases in his fifth game back with the Legends. He now has 31 steals on the season, ranking fourth among Royals farmhands, and is hitting .303/.367/.536 in 71 games with Lexington.

Best matchup

Nick Neidert vs. Luis Alexander BasabeAs featured in last week's Toolshed, Neidert has been impressive in his first season as a Marlins prospect, but on Monday, the Double-A Jacksonville right-hander had to deal with the toolsy Basabe, who was 11-for-27 (.407) in his previous seven games for Birmingham. Neidert had the upper hand early by getting Basabe to fly out to center in the first inning, but the Barons switch-hitter laced a two-run homer to right two frames later. Those were the only two times the No. 3 Marlins and No. 9 White Sox prospects saw each other. Neidert was lifted after four innings and 75 pitches, having given up three earned runs on five hits and a walk while fanning four. Basabe's homer was his only hit in his side's 3-1 win.

Video: Basabe crushes two-run blast for Birmingham

Who strengthened their promotion case

Blue Jays SS Bo Bichette, Double-A New Hampshire: 3-for-5, 2 RBI, CS -- This was Bichette's third multi-hit performance in his last four games with New Hampshire. Bichette's .280/.336/.445 line in 117 games might not scream promotion, but his 54 extra-base hits are the most in the Eastern League and his 38 doubles are second-most in Minors. Also consider that Bichette hit .264/.322/.424 in 85 games before the EL All-Star Game and .324/.372/.500 in 32 games after the break. As it stands, there probably isn't much to gain with a move to Triple-A, especially with Buffalo fading out of the International League playoff picture and New Hampshire looking postseason-bound in the EL, but Bichette has earned the promotion.

Others of note

Rangers RHP Tyler Phillips, Class A Hickory: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 93 pitches, 71 strikes -- The Rangers' No. 14 prospect allowed two earned runs or fewer for the ninth straight start. He's 6-0 with a 1.70 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only six walks over 53 innings during that time. Phillips has a 2.78 ERA with 120 strikeouts and 13 walks in 123 frames on the season.

Marlins OF Connor Scott, Class A Greensboro: 1-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, R, K -- This was the Marlins first-rounder's first career homer. Miami has been aggressive with the 18-year-old outfielder, and Scott has held his own with a .257/.333/.400 line and three extra-base hits in 11 Class A games.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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