Image credit: Jackson Holliday (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
The full-season minor leagues now pause for four days at the MLB all-star break, which provides an ideal vantage point to assess first-half Minor League Players of the Year for all 30 organizations.
The criteria used is simply best performance by a prospect. This is not a listing of best overall prospects in each organization. All statistics cited are through July 9.
Ryan Bliss, 2B
In a major bounceback season, the 2021 second-rounder out of Auburn hit .358/.414/.594 with 12 homers and 30 steals in 68 games. The 23-year-old Bliss led the minor leagues with 105 hits and placed fourth in the overall batting race in the first half.
Ignacio Alvarez, SS
The Braves are rich in young pitching prospects with upside but are looking for a young hitter to emerge. Alvarez, a 2022 fifth-rounder out of junior college, may be that hitter. The 20-year-old hit .294/.412/.393 with four homers and 14 steals in 75 games.
Jackson Holliday, SS
The Orioles’ system had no shortage of offensive standouts—Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo and the young Samuel Basallo—in the first half. But it’s the 19-year-old Holliday, the first pick in the 2022 draft, who stood out most by batting .331/.466/.523 with seven homers and 20 steals in 71 games.
Boston Red Sox
Roman Anthony, OF
The Red Sox drafted Anthony in the second round last year out of Florida prep power Stoneman Douglas. His strong batted-ball data began yielding results following a promotion to High-A in mid June. The 19-year-old lefthanded batter hit .264/.405/.458 with eight homers, 52 walks and 54 strikeouts in 58 games.
Owen Caissie, OF
Free from the Cubs’ pitcher-friendly Class A affiliates, the 21-year-old Caissie showed his huge lefthanded power as one of the youngest regulars in the Southern League. He hit .275/.377/.519 with 15 homers and six steals in 71 games. The mighty Caissie ranked among the SL leaders for homers, slugging and RBIs.
Chicago White Sox
Terrell Tatum, OF
The White Sox have drafted well recently, but top prospects Colson Montgomery and Noah Schultz had injury-delayed first halves. That created space for the 24-year-old Tatum, and he ran with it. The 16th-round pick in 2021 from North Carolina State hit .269/.430/.426 with six homers and 36 steals in 71 games.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B
The Reds have graduated young big leaguers Elly De La Cruz, Matt McLain and Andrew Abbott this season, but it’s a testament to their system depth that they still have an impact hitter on the farm. The 23-year-old Encarnacion-Strand hit .321/.392/.620 with 20 homers in 65 games. He ranked top 10 in the minors in home runs, slugging and total bases.
Gavin Williams, RHP
Williams made four starts for Cleveland in the first half, but the 2021 first-rounder from East Carolina spent most of his season carving Double-A and Triple-A hitters. The 24-year-old struck out 81 and walked 24 in 60.1 innings to go with a 2.39 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 12 starts.
Yanquiel Fernandez, OF
Power is Fernandez’s carrying tool. He blasted 22 homers in the first half to rank one shy of the minor league lead. The 20-year-old Cuban corner outfielder hit .304/.355/.588 with 77 RBIs in 74 games. He began the year at Low-A and rocketed to Double-A in late June, preceding a Futures Game appearance.
Colt Keith, 3B/2B
Injuries had conspired to limit Keith in his first two pro seasons, but a healthy first half resulted in a career-high total of 67 games. The 22-year-old hit .335/.400/.593 with 16 homers as he climbed to Triple-A, where he was one of the youngest players in the International League.
Zach Dezenzo, 3B/2B
Double-A Corpus Christi
Houston identified breakout prospects Ryan Clifford and Dezenzo in the 11th and 12th rounds last year. Dezenzo gets the nod here for his infield versatility and for reaching Double-A in his first full pro season. The 23-year-old hit .350/.430/.543 with six homers and 13 steals in 54 games.
Kansas City Royals
Cayden Wallace, 3B
High-A Quad Cities
The Royals have the youngest lineup in MLB and might get even younger next season. That could be the ETA for 2022 second-rounder Wallace if he keeps hitting like he did in the first half. The 22-year-old hit .263/.343/.452 with nine homers and 13 steals in 77 games, ranking among the Midwest League top five in hits, total bases and RBIs.
Los Angeles Angels
Caden Dana, RHP
The Angels drafted Dana in the 11th round in 2022 out of high school in New Jersey. He advanced quickly to High-A this season as one of just four teenage starting pitchers at the level. In that context, his 3.61 ERA with 80 strikeouts, 28 walks and a 1.19 WHIP in 62.1 innings shines.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Emmet Sheehan, RHP
Called up to the majors on June 16, Sheehan spent the first two and a half months dominating Double-A hitters. His 41.7% strikeout rate ranked second in the minors, while his .131 opponent average was tops. The 23-year-old Sheehan logged a 1.86 ERA with 88 strikeouts and 23 walks in 53.1 innings.
Patrick Monteverde, LHP
A lot went right for 25-year-old Monteverde in the first half. He went 8-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 13 starts for Pensacola while striking out 84 and walking 26 in 74.2 innings. Monteverde was one of four qualified minor league starters with a sub-2.00 ERA in the first half.
Tyler Black, 3B
Injuries cut into Black’s production in 2022 during his first full pro season. The 2021 supplemental first-rounder out of Wright State logged a career-high 66 games in the first half as he shined in the Southern League. The 23-year-old Black hit .273/.424/.502 with 11 homers, 41 steals, 51 walks and 63 strikeouts.
Cory Lewis, RHP
High-A Cedar Rapids
The Twins drafted Lewis in the ninth round in 2022 out of UC Santa Barbara and appear to have gotten a steal. The 22-year-old pitched his way to High-A in early June and had recorded a 2.29 ERA through 63 innings to go with 81 strikeouts and 21 walks. Lewis’ power knuckleball sets him apart.
New York Mets
Mark Vientos, 3B/1B
The Mets had seen encouraging growth from pitching prospects such as Mike Vasil, Christian Scott and Tyler Stuart, but it is the 23-year-old Vientos who gets the nod. He improved across the board in his repeat of Syracuse, hitting .311/.391/.636 with 16 homers in 55 games, sandwiched around a big league callup.
New York Yankees
Chase Hampton, RHP
The organization’s fastest-rising pitching prospect, Hampton is a Texas Tech product who went from the sixth round in 2022 to Double-A in less than a year. He recorded a 3.12 ERA through 13 starts with 103 strikeouts and 22 walks in 69.1 innings to separate himself from a pack of young Yankees arms that also includes Drew Thorpe and Clayton Beeter.
Darell Hernaiz, SS
The key to the Athletics’ return from the Orioles for Cole Irvin, Hernaiz hit the ground running in his new organization but in a familiar Texas League setting. The 22-year-old El Paso native hit .338/.393/.486 with five homers and just 48 strikeouts in 71 games for Midland to earn a bump to Triple-A.
Johan Rojas, OF
Rojas has implemented a minor swing change and has seen his power production improve. The 23-year-old hit .306/.361/.484 with nine homers and 30 steals through 76 games, showing his highest ever isolated slugging percentage over a large sample to go with high-end speed and center field defense.
Anthony Solometo, LHP
Drafted in the second round in 2021 out of high school in New Jersey, Solometo climbed to Double-A as a 20-year-old this season. In 16 total starts he rode his slinging arm action and quality stuff to 89 strikeouts and 29 walks in 77.2 innings to go with a 2.32 ERA that ranked top 10 in the minors.
St. Louis Cardinals
Victor Scott II, OF
An athletic outfielder drafted in the fifth round in 2022 out of West Virginia, Scott excelled at High-A Peoria to earn a late-June bump to Double-A and Futures Game nod. Scott stole 52 bases in 75 games in the first half to rank second in the minors. The 22-year-old hit .282/.361/.397 with three homers.
San Diego Padres
Robby Snelling, LHP
High-A Fort Wayne
Snelling zoomed to High-A in July as a 19-year-old, less than a year after the Padres drafted him in the supplemental first round out of high school. Through 13 starts he struck out 68 and walked 17 in 62.1 innings to go with a 1.88 ERA.
San Francisco Giants
Luis Matos, OF
Matos put a forgettable 2022 behind him with a stellar showing at Double-A and Triple-A that earned the 21-year-old a mid-June callup to San Francisco. While in the minors he hit .350/.415/.561 with 10 homers, 15 steals, 24 walks and 20 strikeouts in 55 games.
Gabriel Gonzalez, OF
Bryan Woo made quick work of Double-A on his fast flight to Seattle but didn’t stay in the minors long. For midseason POY distinction, the 19-year-old Gonzalez fits the bill. In 73 games for Low-A Modesto he hit .348/.403/.530 with nine homers and just 46 strikeouts. He ranked third in the minors with 103 hits.
Tampa Bay Rays
Junior Caminero, 3B/SS
Acquired from the Guardians following the 2021 season, Caminero made quick work of High-A in his first Opening Day assignment to a full-season league. The 20-year-old kept right on hitting in Double-A and batted .333/.392/.604 with 16 homers in 66 games.
Abimelec Ortiz, 1B
Signed as an undrafted player out of junior college in 2021, Ortiz turned in two nondescript seasons in the Rangers system before busting out this year. The 21-year-old ranked second in the minors in slugging in the first half as part of a .330/.403/.679 batting line with 19 homers in 62 games at two Class A levels.
Toronto Blue Jays
Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B
Double-A New Hampshire
Martinez opened the season in a 7-for-79 funk—but then a switch flipped. In his final 47 games of the first half, the 21-year-old hit .301/.425/.609 with 13 homers, 33 walks and 35 strikeouts. His new approach and preexisting power earned him a second-half bump to Triple-A.
James Wood, OF
The five-player return the Nationals received from the Padres for Juan Soto last summer may one day be remembered in Washington as the James Wood trade. The 20-year-old outfielder climbed to Double-A at the end of May and hit .262/.360/.520 with 14 homers and 13 steals in 75 games overall.