AL East 2021 Breakout Prospects

AL East 2021 Breakout Prospects

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The AL East Prospects are some of the best in the game, but they aren’t the reason we are here today. Today, we are going to take a look at the Breakout candidates for each team, with some high upside prospects set to make a splash in 2021.

The AL East is moving in the direction of becoming a power house in a few seasons with so much talent on the way through the minors for each of these teams and some talent at the big league level to match it.

This will be the start of a series going division by division, breaking down 2 prospects per team from multiple analysts: Today, for the AL East, @JTillinghast27, @d__brack, @DrakeMann4, @MLBUKAnalysis1, @hutch1760. Each tasked with digging into the back end of each teams farm system to find some high upside prospects that we will be talking about much differently this time next year. First up: The AL East Prospects.

Criteria for the Prospects Below:
Must be ranked 10-20 or unranked in their teams rankings (via Prospects Worldwide ranks)
Prospects we feel will make a big impact in 2021.
Click each players Team Ranking to be directed to their teams Top 20 Prospect Ranks with scouting report attached
Click each players Dynasty Rankings to be directed to our Top 300 Dynasty Prospects List.

BLUE JAYS

1. 3B/SS Miguel Hiraldo | 20 Years Old
Team Rank: 11th | Dynasty Rank: 201st

Hiraldo is a 20-year-old Infielder coming a good season in 2019 where he slashed .299/.346/.485 in adv rookie ball. In 2020 he wasn’t apart of the Jays alternate training site, but he was apart of their development camp in late September.

Offensively, Hiraldo has elite bat speed and makes tons of contact. His approach is solid, but he can get a little to pull happy at times, causing him to have some inconsistencies. His swing is smooth and fly’s through the zone, which is why he’s projected to have a bit more power in the future. There is clear upside with the bat to hit both for power and to have an ability to get on-base at a decent clip.

Although he’s yet to play above A-ball and has a long way to go, but count on the talent showing up in 2021.
– Nathan Hutchinson; @hutch1760

2. RHP Sem Robberse | 19 Years Old
Team Rank: Unranked | Dynasty Rank: Unranked

Robberse was signed late in the 2019 INT FA out of the Netherlands and made his pro debut just a few weeks after signings. He pitched just 10.1 innings with a 0.87era, 9Ks, and 0BBs. Robberse was described as having some of the best mechanics in the Jays minor league system, by Andrew Tinnish.

Robberse has a 3 pitch mix but primarily will use a Fastball and Curveball, the fastball sits 88-92 but played up in the summer according to reports from the Jays camp. It has some life up in the zone, and the potential increase in velocity is intriguing. His curve is his best pitch now and projects as a true swing and miss pitch, he has the feel and confidence to throw it in any count and has shown some ability to switch up the shape and velocity as well. His changeup is well behind his other pitches and will need to be improved to continue as a starter.

The upside is there, and the starter traits are evident to have a breakout 2021 and make some noise in the Jays system.
– Nathan Hutchinson; @hutch1760

ORIOLES

1. SS Gunnar Henderson | 19 Years old
Team Rank: 10th | Dynasty Rank: 236th

Signed above slot in 2019, Gunnar spent his first season in the Gulf Coast League. He averaged .259, but his general offensive performances highlighted some of his loud offensive tools. Despite the lack of HRs, he possesses plenty of power upside, and the ability to mix power and contact.

Although he struck out 28 times in 2019, his average wasn’t too bad, but there are some concerns about his swing and overall approach. He has a short swing, that doesn’t allow much movement through his arms, so relies on his quick bat speed to make contact with the ball. With some adjustments to his swing and approach, he has the ability to utilize his offensive tools further and excel through the system.

Defensively it is unknown whether he will stick at SS due to his size and power but his plus arm would suit either SS or 3B down the line so largely dependent on what the Orioles see him as.
There is plenty of potential from an offensive point of view so he may be utilized based on his bat. He is still young so there is still some projection on an already big frame. This should allow for his power to grow, thus making the emphasis on his plate approach more important.
– Jake Tweedie; @MLBUKAnalysis1

2. OF Hudson Haskin | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: 13th | Dynasty Rank: 227th

Haskin was the Orioles 2020 second-round pick and he could be a fast riser through the Orioles system. While he has little track record during his time in college, I’ll be one of the first to tell you he has legit potential and you could be seeing him higher ranked as we go through the 2021 season.

He was a fun player to watch and produced some impressive stats during his time at Tulane University, hitting .363/.457/.612 while hitting 11 home runs and having a 12.1 BB% in 329 plate appearances. He’s also been known to not strikeout as Haskin had a 11.9 K% in college and even walked more times than he struck out.

Haskin has unique swing mechanics that include a quick compact swing, he keeps his barrel through the zone well that results in consistent barrels. Plus, his small leg kick allows him to get good timing in the box. He’ll have a potentially plus contact tool with his ability to hit to all fields and get on-base at a high rate with his good plate discipline. His hit tool will pair nicely with his already plus speed and in terms of power, he has decent raw power that’ll help him get to 15+ home runs a year but will need to make a few slight adjustments to his bat path to display that power more often. Haskin is a center fielder long term with his athleticism and speed. While he does have average arm strength, he covers ground well and should adjust well in any stadium.
– Drake Mann; @DrakeMann4

RAYS

1. OF/1B Heriberto Hernandez | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: 11 (TEX Rank) | Dynasty Rank: 84th

Just acquired this offseason in a trade that sent Nate Lowe to the Rangers, Heriberto is one of my favorite offensive prospects in the game, at any level. Currently spending some time at catcher, but I really don’t see much hope of him staying there long-term. But that shouldn’t affect your thoughts on his value at all. Heriberto has legitimate offensive upside and a trade to the Rays could very well bring out the best in him.

In just 113 career minor league games, 473 Plate Appearances, Heriberto has produced at an elite rate. He has smacked 23 HRs, 32 2Bs, 9 3Bs; and an 82:101 BB:K rate. Needless to say, this is a bat that’s going to find his way into the middle part of an order and produce legitimate counting stats, OBP, and power numbers. Like I said before, it doesn’t matter where the defensive home is (I feel it will be LF) this will be one of the premium bats in the minor leagues this times next season, you can count on that.

A cause for concern? Heriberto has shown to this point to be a heavy pull hitter, around 54% of the time between 2018-19 seasons, but has shown some opposite field power. There have been glowing reports that his overall offensive game has taken even another step forward this year during instructs, if he’s able to utilize the whole field a bit more, this is a near-complete hitter in the making and has the looks of a true cornerstone middle of the order bat.
Jake Tillinghast; @JTillinghast27

2. RHP Seth Johnson | 22 Years Old
Team Rank: 16th | Dynasty Rank: 260th

A former JuCo Bandit shortstop turned pitching prospect, Rays righty Seth Johnson is still just getting his feet wet on the mound. After transferring and playing one year at mid-major Campbell University, people began realizing Johnson’s potential as a pitcher. The Rays saw a special athlete with an electric arm and figured they could do something with it, so they selected him with the 40th overall pick in the 2019 Draft.

Fast forward to 2020 where much of the prospect world was thrown into limbo, Johnson was added to the Rays 60-man player pool and spent the end of the season at the alternate site. Even before then, he was posting videos to social media showcasing his development.

This fall at instructs, he really began to receive the rave reviews that the Rays hoped for when they drafted him. Pumping his fastball in the 94-97 range, a plus slider and curve that each register elite ~2900 RPMs, and mixing in a decent change, Johnson’s stuff looks like he could rival any arm in the Rays system.

Having just turned 22, Johnson still has plenty of time to continue developing in the machine that is the Rays farm system. We will most likely see Johnson begin the 2021 season at +A ball or potentially AA with a debut in line for some time during the 2022 season. There is some relief risk in the profile with a few distinct mechanical areas to clean up, but with the direction his arm is trending for now, Johnson is one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the entire AL East.
Danny Brackman; @d__brack

RED SOX

1. LHP Jay Groome | 22 Years Old
Team Rank: 11th | Dynasty Rank:
204th

Previously a highly-coveted lefty arm, Red Sox pitching prospect Jay Groome has fallen off map for many prospect evaluators since being drafted in 2016. With injury issues and a lull in development, Sox fans are surely disappointed in their former top pick’s trajectory.

At the time of the draft, Groome flashed a fastball with good life in the 92-95 range, as well as a curve that was seen by some as the best in the class. Since being drafted 12th overall in 2016, however, Groome has only logged 66 total innings, throwing just 4 innings since the end of 2017.

It appears Groome is once again healthy, and he threw relatively well this fall at instructs–the velo is back and the curve is looking sharp. If this continues, Groome has a chance to skyrocket up prospect rankings. Health concerns are never a good thing, though in this case it may have given Groome an extended opportunity to iron out some underlying mechanical issues, which would be great for his chances at sticking as a starter. With the state of the Red Sox pitching staff, Groome may get some sort of look during the 2021 season, though the Sox have every intention on bringing him forward as a starter if possible. Most likely, he will spend next year developing and building arm strength at the upper levels of the minors. Not many lefties have the pure stuff Groome has, so if the Sox can keep him healthy, he could be a key piece in their future rotation.
– Danny Brackman; @d__brack

2. SS Brainer Bonaci |18 Years Old
Team Rank: 15th | Dynasty Rank:
264th

Bonaci was signed during the 2018 J2 period for $290,000, he’s a switch-hitting toolsy shortstop that’s incredibly raw but has some nice upside for the Red Sox. His first season resulted in a .279/.356/.397 with three home runs in 261 plate appearances. He’s still filling out his frame and will still need to gain the necessary strength in the process.

His leg kick and smooth swing show some power projection but he won’t impact with his power. He’ll be a contact first prospect that impacts the game with his aggressive nature on the bases and overall ability to get on-base. He’s an above-average runner and 2021 could be the year Bonaci advances his potential and starts developing his loud tools as he physically matures. His best tool is his plus-plus arm strength and impressive range that’ll help him stick at shortstop. Bonaci could easily breakout as he already turned some heads during the Red Sox Fall Instructs, but there are still some parts of his game that’ll need some refining but the result could be something special for the Red Sox.
– Drake Mann; @DrakeMann4

YANKEES

1. OF Canaan Smith | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: 16th | Dynasty Rank: 192nd

Canaan Smith is a bit overlooked in the prospect world, but there is a lot to like here offensively from a high OBP and solid Power production. Canaan spent 2019 at the Yankees (A) facility posting a strong .307/.405/.465 slash-line, 11 HR, 32 2Bs (108:74 K:BB ratio) with a .398 wOBA, .158 ISO, and 154 wRC+ and for good measure, chipped in 16 SBs. Although you shouldn’t be counting on more than a handful of SB at most down the road. He has always been able to use the whole field but 2019 saw him using the opposite field at an abnormal 41.2% of the time, Pull 36.2%, which also increasing his overall production at the plate. This was all coming off a rough 2018 where he didn’t find much success at all.

Canaan was onto something in 2019 becoming a much more complete hitter than in years past. The missed 2020 season, in my opinion, slowed his rise through the system, and we may not be talking about Canaan today if that were the case.

Canaan has a chance to make a loud impression in 2021 and put himself in firm discussions to be an option sometime in 2022/23 for the Yankees. Likely limited to LF duties limiting his overall value, but you’re buying the bat here with Canaan, and it has a chance to be a good one for the Yankees down the line.
Jake Tillinghast; @JTillinghast27

2. RHP Alexander Vizcaino | 23 Years Old
Team Rank: 14th | Dynasty Rank: 267th

The up-and-coming right-hander from the Dominican Republic has started to finally showcase his ability on the mound.
Signed back in 2016, he has had a slow start to pro ball, spending 3 seasons in the Rookie Leagues until his arsenal significantly improved in 2019.

He was part of an exciting rotation in Charleston, which ultimately aided his progress. He had 101 Ks in just 87.2 innings before a promotion to A+. His ERA has never been too impressive but his pitches improving should allow for that to decrease.

Combining his mid-90s FB, which touched 100 last season, with a low-90s splitter action CH and a low-80s SL increased his K rate dramatically in 2019. There is still some work needed to improve his control, (his BB% is around 9% throughout his career), but his command is improving and should do with more exposure.
He will need to continue to pitch regularly to further his progression, as he has only reached 100 innings once in his 4-year career. There is the potential to be a mid-rotation starter but his arsenal could be better suited out of the pen, especially his fastball.
– Jake Tweedie; @MLBUKAnalysis1


Past Articles of other divisions Breakout Prospects:
AL Central Breakout Prospects | AL West Breakout Prospects
NL East Breakout Prospects | NL Central Breakout Prospects | NL West Breakout Prospects

For more information on a number of prospects throughout the league follow the Links below:


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