10/23/21 : Fall Instructs Visions
During 2020 Fall Instructs we noted that LHP Bailey Falter was in attendance and showing increased velocity, also that Matt Vierling was in camp and getting reps at both first and third base. In 2019 Bryson Stott had a strong camp in his initial year of professional baseball. Those three had upper levels impact in 2021 and now figure to be in the mix of the immediate future of the big league club.
So … with the 2021 Fall Instructs Camp now concluded who did we see that could be the breakout performer in 2022 and potentially impact the big league crew 🤔…
Let’s start with RHP Andrew Schultz who returned to the mound for his first “game” activity during Fall Instructs. Andrew underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2019 season. He’s always had a violent delivery with an upper nineties velocity … what we saw this fall was a noticeable alteration to more of a short arm release, a much more abbreviated arm swing. The velocity was still evident as he consistently sat in the 96-98 range with the fastball, on the final day of instructs he also was using secondary offerings as put-away pitches. The delivery is still relatively violent but the elbow stress hopefully will be alleviated somewhat by the shorter release point. He’s a young man that could move up very quickly and even potentially impact the 2022 big league team.
Shortstop Luis Garcia had an outstanding Instructs camp, he flashed the leather throughout the four weeks and launched a couple of long home runs at the dish. Luis has matured a great deal physically from the young man we first saw in the backfields in Gulf Coast League play in 2018 when he posted a head turning .369 batting average in 168 AB’s. He lacked strength back then even though the bat speed was evident, the ball didn’t jump off the bat like it does now. He will play the entire 2022 season as a 21 year old and will have to be protected from the coming off season Rule 5 draft as exposure would seemingly be very risky. We envision him as a spring training candidate to break camp with AA level Reading, he’s already played “up” so to speak in 2019 when as a 19 year old he went to Low A Lakewood, it was a struggle that summer offensively but he wasn’t as physically strong as he is now. Mental toughness is not an issue with the effervescent young man. His defense is already big league caliber and we think the offensive skill set is very close as well.
Ethan Wilson has consistently barreled the baseball each time we’ve seen him play. Our impressions from Fall Instructs were the same as when we saw him with the 2021 Threshers. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2021 draft and while he’s not ready to make a big league or upper levels impact just yet we do see a potential Stott like climb during the ‘22 season. A start out of the spring gates with Jersey Shore would seem likely but if he hits like we believe he has the ability to do then an in season promotion to the AA level would not be out of reach.
Jhailyn Ortiz was in Fall Instructs camp during the first couple of weeks and finished strong with a grand slam home run on October 5th. He is also eligible for the Rule 5 draft and will play for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League where he will see a generally higher level of pitching than he’s faced thus far in his minor league career. Jhailyn was hampered by vision issues before but this season those were alleviated and he produced his best summer to date. He will be 23 years old next season, his seventh with the organization. We’ve always liked his skillset both offensively and defensively, he’s very quick on his feet for a big fella and has an outstanding throwing arm. In our opinion from watching him this summer and in Instructs he will continue to mash the baseball at either Reading or Lehigh Valley in 2022 and is potentially one who could make a big league debut as well. Can’t teach the raw power he possesses and this year with the improved vision his pitch recognition was much much improved. Just sayin.
LHP Erubiel Armenta pitched very well in camp … he’s 21 years old and has strikeout stuff as a potential back end reliever. The young hurler from Mexico can bring the heat consistently in the 94-96 range and has a “curl up” delivery that provides great deception. We first noticed him while monitoring the 2020 Mexican Winter League. Erubiel worked his way up to Reading in 2021 after making stops in Clearwater and Jersey Shore. He posted a 1.96 ERA during the season with 49 strikeouts ( 19.17 K/9 😳). Control and a more defined commandment of the strike zone are works in progress ( he walked two but then struck out the side in his last inning of fall instructs ) but the stuff is at or approaching big league caliber. He will pitch the ‘22 season as a 22 year old … should break camp with Reading, if he continues to impress like he has this past season a big league call up isn’t out of reach.
Lastly I can’t close without mentioning one of my favorites … outfielder Johan Rojas. He was a later arrival to Fall Instructs, spending the last two weeks in Clearwater. He continued to shine showing off his raw speed stealing bags and running down fly balls and bat to ball skills that will continue to make him rise up the ranks. Like Garcia he’s matured a great deal physically since we first saw him on the backfields in 2019 GCL play, the added strength gives him legitimate home run power and his speed makes him a doubles and triples machine. Johan will play the majority of the 2022 season as a 21 year old. If he doesn’t start the year in Reading we certainly envision him getting there before summer’s end. He’s already a major league caliber fielder, takes great joy and pride in his defense where he possesses plus speed, tracking and arm skills. I’ve said from day one he’s got the ability to be a special player, nothing has made me waver from that view to date.
Apologies as I stated yesterday would be my last ‘21 Fall Instructs posting but am sitting at the car dealership awaiting service to be completed on my vehicle and felt compelled to write about these six fellas whom I strongly feel are on the verge of making upper level impacts in the near future … even perhaps in the show. Now I’ll go back into off season hibernation 🥴.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️
Photo by Mark Wylie