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Minor League Prospect Report, Week 8: Gavin Williams is a bad, bad man

We’ve got everything you need to know about the week that was in the Minor Leagues, from Matt McLain and Casey Schmitt’s debuts to the top prospects to stash for fantasy baseball.

Gavin Williams of the Cleveland Guardians throws a pitch during a minor league spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch on March 24, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

This season has been defined by rookies making a splash, from Taj Bradley to Tanner Bibee to Bryce Miller to Casey Schmitt and so many more. Of course, you wouldn’t have been shocked by any of those debuts if you’d been keeping up with our weekly prospect reports, in which every single one of those guys was highlighted before reaching the Majors. Want to know who’s next? Here’s everything that’s happened on the farm last week.

Prospect report for Monday, May 15th

Gavin Williams, SP, Cleveland Guardians

In a season chock full of electric pitching debuts — including Cleveland’s own Logan Allen and Tanner Bibee — we may look back at the end of the year and think of Williams as the most promising of them all. Arm issues allowed the righty to fall a bit in the 2021 MLB Draft, eventually going 23rd overall to Cleveland. As soon as he got healthy, though, he started embarrassing Minor League hitters: After posting a 1.96 ERA with 149 Ks in 115 innings across two levels last year, Williams is one-upping himself so far this season, with 21 strikeouts to just six hits allowed in his first 16 innings at Triple-A.

One look at his fastball, and it’s not hard to see why:

Williams regularly sits at 98-99 with his heater, running it up into the triple-digits when he needs to, and the ride on that pitch — along with a more-than-adequate slider and curve plus a usable changeup — has been too much for the Minors to handle. He struck out 10 in just 5.2 innings in his last outing.

Cleveland will try to hold him back as much as possible, and the pending returns of Aaron Civale and Triston McKenzie will create something of a logjam, but Williams will be up at some point in the next two months — and when he does, he’ll have as much upside as anyone.

Jordan Westburg, 2B/SS/3B, Baltimore Orioles

We highlighted Colton Cowser last week, but he’s not the only one who’s call-up from Triple-A is long, long overdue. A former first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Westburg was seen as a solid, high-floor, fast-rising college infielder, the kind who can play multiple positions while hitting for average and just doing enough things pretty well to carve out a Major League role. And initially, his Minor League numbers backed that up: The Mississippi State product hit .285 with 15 homers and 17 steals across three levels in his first taste of the Minors, fine but certainly nothing exceptional.

Then 2022 happened. Westburg upped his launch angle and suddenly started getting his considerable raw power into games on a regular basis, hitting 27 homers — including 18 in 91 Triple-A games to end the year. His encore in Norfolk has gone even better, with 11 homers and four steals with a 1.021 OPS in just 32 games.

Ability to hit for average, ability to hit for power and multi-position eligibility? Sign me up.

With Ramon Urias on the shelf, Jorge Mateo cooling off considerably after a fast start and Adam Frazier being Adam Frazier, the O’s have no shortage of need around the infield right now — a need that they’ll surely fill with a Westburg promotion at some point in the coming weeks.

Andres Chaparro, 3B, New York Yankees

The Yankees were once thought to be rich in infielders, but amid injuries and early struggles from fellow prospects Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe and Oswaldo Cabrera, New York suddenly finds itself desperate for any kind of offensive juice. That could create an opening for Chaparro, who’s rebounded from a brutal start this season to become a breakout prospect in the Yankees’ system.

An international signing out of Venezuela, Chaparro has never been regarded as much of a prospect — even after busting out at Double-A last year, with a .963 OPS and 19 homers in just 64 games. That skepticism seemed validated by a truly abysmal start at Triple-A this year, as he went hitless in his first 29 at-bats with 13 Ks and just three walks. Since then, though, he’s turned it around:

Chaparro now boasts a .896 OPS with 10 homers across his first 36 games — including a .676 slugging percentage since that rough opening week. He’s not a great athlete, so there’s a ton of pressure on his bat to perform if he’s going to carve out an everyday role, but he’s posting big-boy exit velocities, and his reduced strikeout rate gives hope that he could make enough contact to let his pull power play. It’s not like the Yankees have anything better at DH right now.

Kyle Harrison, SP, San Francisco Giants

San Francisco has eased their top pitching prospect into his first taste of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, never letting him go more than four innings in any start so far this season. And the lefty has struggled a bit with his command, with 24 walks in 23.1 innings (although some of that surely has to do with the newly-implemented and very tight automated strike zone).

Still, it’s hard to overstate how electric the lefty’s stuff is. He’s also struck out an eye-popping 42 hitters in those 23.1 frames, to go with a 3.47 ERA, and the carry on his fastball makes the pitch look like it genuinely rises as it enters the zone:

He pairs that heater with a big, sweeping breaker that’s death on lefties, and that’s two pitches that are Major League-ready right now. The Giants have said publicly that they want him to refine his command before calling him up, but given all the injuries and ineffectiveness in San Francisco’s rotation this year, it shouldn’t be long before he’s pitching by the Bay.

Nolan Jones, OF, Colorado Rockies

A former top-50 prospects with Cleveland, Jones struggled to a .244/.309/.372 line in his first taste of MLB action last year before being sent to Colorado at the trade deadline. With the way the prospect hype cycle works, the outfielder was largely written off in favor of the next big thing — but you may want to pay attention again, because he’s doing truly ridiculous things in Triple-A Albuquerque right now.

Jones is currently slashing .344/.459/.688, with 11 homers in his first 32 games. The strikeout rate is still a bit of a concern — 24 percent is higher than you’d like for a 25-year-old in Triple-A — but he’s also walking more than ever, and if his plate approach improves it’ll allow him to realize more of his prodigious athleticism. The Rockies really don’t have much to lose right now with Jurickson Profar and Mike Moustakas sucking up at-bats, so Jones could get the call at some point in the next few weeks. There’s a chance he’s just a quad-A player, but at Coors Field, the upside is immense.

Top 25 prospects to stash for fantasy baseball

Week of 5/15

Rank Name Position Team ETA
Rank Name Position Team ETA
1 Jordan Walker OF Cardinals April
2 Colton Cowser OF Orioles June
3 Taj Bradley SP Rays April
4 Kyle Manzardo 1B Rays June
5 Matthew Liberatore SP Cardinals May
6 Christian Encarnacion-Strand 1B Reds May
7 Elly de la Cruz SS Reds July
8 Jordan Westburg 2B/3B/SS Orioles June
9 Gavin Williams SP Guardians July
10 David Hamilton SS Red Sox May
11 Eduoard Julien 2B Twins April
12 Andres Chaparro 3B Yankees June
13 Royce Lewis SS Twins June
14 Andrew Abbott SP Reds July
15 Curtis Mead 2B/3B Rays June
16 Ronny Mauricio SS Mets June
17 Bobby Miller SP Dodgers June
18 Endy Rodriguez C/OF Pirates May
19 Joey Ortiz 2B/SS Orioles April
20 Justin-Henry Malloy OF Tigers May
21 Mark Vientos 3B Mets July
22 Gavin Stone SP Dodgers May
23 Connor Norby 2B Orioles June
24 Kyle Harrison SP Giants June
25 Nolan Jones OF Rockies June