NL Central 2021 Breakout Prospects

NL Central 2021 Breakout Prospects

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The NL Central has a few teams who could use some youthful reinforcements in the next year or 2 to help take control of this division that has been so evenly matched the past couple of years. With the Cubs heading towards a major rebuild, Pirates already in the middle of their rebuild, it leaves just the Reds (selling off pieces), Cardinals (enter Dylan Carlson), and Brewers (honestly a ton of uncertainty here with the Brew Crew heading into 2021) to battle it out at the top of the division over the next 2-3 years before the Pirates and Cubs get back into contention windows. Although, no one in the division really seems capable of running away with the division in the foreseeable future, so seeing how each can develop their next wave of talent is going to be a difference-maker for whoever wants to take control of the NL Central.

This series will go division by division. Breaking down 2 prospects per team from multiple analysts: Today, the NL Central. @JTillinghast27, @d__brack, @DrakeMann4, @MLBUKAnalysis1, @MPRichards1981, each tasked with digging into the back half of each team’s farm system to find some high upside prospects that we will be talking about much differently this time next year.

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.


BREWERS

1. OF Carlos Rodriguez | 19 Years Old
Team Rank: 12th | Dynasty Rank: Unranked

Renown for his solid contact, he averaged above. 300 in his first couple of seasons in pro ball. Signed for over $1.355m in 2017, he dominated the Dominican Summer League in 2018, before his first taste of American baseball in 2019.

His flat swing is compact, and doesn’t allow for big leverage. As a result it doesn’t make him a big HR threat, but he has the ability to pick gaps and pick up RBIs. With further development of his frame, and adjusting his swing, he could provide more pop of the bat and make him more of a power hitter, rather than just a contact hitter. Furthermore he has good speed between the bases, and this allowed him to have 19 SBs in his 2 seasons in pro ball.

Defensively he uses his speed well to make plays and get to the ball in the outfield. He has an average arm and works well in CF.
– Jake Tweedie; @MLBUKAnalysis1

2. C Jefferson Quero | 18 Years Old
Team Rank: 13th | Dynasty Rank: Unranked

The young Venezuelan has yet to have experience of American baseball but has shown plenty of offensive and defensive capabilities in Amateur ball.

Offensively he has the raw talent to hit .270, with 5-10 HRs, but with some more work and physical development then this number could rise to 10-15 HRs. With a nice mix of power and contact, he has the ability to make hard contact, whilst having the future potential to hit consistent HRs. This will have to be a result of bulking up, but the bat is there, the physicality just needs to follow.

Defensively, he is a solid catcher who is athletic and uses his body well. His arm strength allows him to be a threat from behind the plate, and picking off runners, whilst his athleticism and quick reactions make him a sound overall catcher.
– Jake Tweedie; @MLBUKAnalysis1

CARDINALS

1. SS/RHP Masyn Winn | 19 Years Old
Team Rank: 14th | Dynasty Rank: 243rd

Selected with the 54th overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Cardinals out of the prep ranks. Listed at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, Winn is a rare two-way player that many scouts believe could have been drafted as a pitcher or a shortstop. There are mixed reviews about which side of the ball Winn ends up playing. However, there are legitimate skills on both sides that could develop if he focuses full-time on it. As a shortstop, the switch-hitter has flashed plus raw power and speed that could turn into an intriguing combination at the position. His strong defensive traits, highlighted by his arm, suggest he would be a plus defender at the position.

From a pitching perspective, the right-hander possesses a plus fastball that consistently sits in the 92-96 mph range. He combines that with an equally impressive curveball. Both pitches are praised for their high spin-rate. His changeup is still a work in progress but should develop into a viable third pitch with professional instruction. His lack of size and the effort in his delivery lead some to question whether he can hold up as a starter. Considering prospects are fraught with risk, you could certainly do worse than hitch your wagon to an athletic prep athlete who has two separate paths to fantasy glory.
– Michael Richards; @MPRichards1981

2. RHP Andre Pallante | 22 Years Old
Team Rank: 20th | Dynasty Rank: Unranked

The Cardinals fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft, Pallante quietly had a good first season in pro-ball starting nine games and pitching to a 2.78 ERA (3.09 FIP) and a 26.8 K% in 35.2 innings pitched, this included a nice four consecutive scoreless outings streak.

While there’s not a lot of projection for Pallante, his stuff and ability to command both sides of the plate are that good. Right now, Pallante is a lower velocity arm that normally operates 91-92 MPH but has touched 96 MPH, his plus slider looks to be his best secondary offering in the low 80’s but his curveball isn’t far behind his slider. His above-average curveball is in the mid-’70s and he can spot it down regularly. His fourth pitch is a changeup and while it projects to be average, his arm speed makes it play well off his fastball. While he has a deceptive delivery, he’s in sync and he repeats them well resulting in consistent strikes.

Pallante is one of my favorite pitchers in the minors and at his age, there’s plenty of time for him to hit his ceiling as a back-end rotation starter. With how well he started his pro career, I think Pallante continues his success into 2021 and rises through the Cardinals system quickly. Be on the lookout for this crafty right-handed pitcher in 2021.
– Drake Mann; @DrakeMann4

CUBS

1. OF Jordan Nwogu | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: Unranked | Dynasty Rank: 173rd

Jordan Nwogu is one of my favorite offensive prospects to come out of the 2021 MLB Draft. A physical specimen at 6’3 235lbs. The toolset is extremely loud and capable of making a major impact at the big league level offensively. From the 60 grade Speed and Raw Power, the profile can be very productive down the road when finished developing.

He has strong bat to ball skills, producing high exit velocities consistently. However, Nwogu had struggled a bit during his college career when facing good secondaries and will need some adjustments to his approach to consistently tap into his potential. He struggles keeping his weight back, getting a bit “ancy/jumpy” in the box hunting fastballs and being a bit noisy in the box with some pre- load movement that may need some tinkering with.


Nwogu is likely going to be the best fit in LF. Likely will just be an Average Defender relegated to LF duties with Below Average Arm Strength but that Plus Speed will help him run down balls in the gaps with his good instincts and athleticism. The Cubs have a lottery ticket ready to burst onto the scenes heading into the 2021 MiLB season. If it all clicks, Nwogu has 25 HR – 15-20 SB Upside while being a middle of the order presence and run producer.
– Jake Tillinghast; @JTillinghast27

2. LHP Burl Carraway | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: 13th | Dynasty Rank: Unranked

Making one of the bigger surprises in the 2020 MLB Draft, the Cubs think they found a dude in Burl Carraway. Typically, prospects who are seen as relief-only at the next level aren’t valued very highly, so taking Carraway (an undersized mid-major lefty closer) in the 2nd round shows what the Cubs org. thinks of the Dallas Baptist arm. He was recruited to college as a 2-way player and took some time to figure things out on the mound, though he’s been nothing short of electric over the past 2 years.

Carraway is a max effort guy and undoubtedly will continue his career in the pen, though his pure stuff rivals that of any other arm in the draft class when he’s working in his usual 1-2 inning stints. He’s been clocked up to 100 with an awesome 2700 RPMs on the heater while snapping off a lethal 2800 RPM 12-6 hammer in the mid-70s. Despite his smaller stature, his release height actually helps the deceptiveness of his stuff. He only works with those two offerings, but both pitches are optimized to work off each other.

A modern reliever who is going to fire with everything he has, it’s no question Carraway would rather go for the swing and miss at all costs over letting a ball be put in play. This is going to cost him some walks, though his stuff is so great, he’s still likely to be highly effective. With the way the Cubs roster is trending, we may see Carraway get a good look in 2021 if they elect to promote the youth.
Danny Brackman; @d__brack

PIRATES

1. 3B Alexander Mojica | 18 Years Old
Team Rank: 18th | Dynasty Rank:
161st

After receiving a relatively low $350,000 signing bonus, Mojica entered his first professional season under the radar. The Right-handed hitter emerged onto the scene in 2019, posting a very impressive slash of .351/.458/.590 during his time in rookie ball. Mojica showed an advanced understanding of the strike zone for his age with a 17.0 BB% and 15.6 K% as a 17-year old. While he spent most of his debut season as a third baseman, several evaluators believe the slugger ends up as a first baseman due to poor defensive grades.

Currently listed at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, the righty should continue to add strength to his maturing frame without sacrificing his above-average hit tool. While DSL performances should be taken with a grain of salt, Mojica showed several attributes that make him a quality dynasty option with the potential to turn into a classic slugger capable of contributing in all categories besides stolen bases. Mojica is a prime example of the type of player that is often downgraded on real-life prospect lists because of his poor defense.
– Michael Richards; @MPRichards1981

2. 2B/SS Ji-Hwan Bae | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: 11th | Dynasty Rank:
Unranked

Acquired in 2018, his 2019 season showed plenty of potential and promise. He hits for a high average and steals a ton of bases, shown by the .323 with 31 SBs, and won the South Atlantic batting title.

He doesn’t have the power to hit HRs, but he finds the gaps consistently and focuses on hitting ground balls. Once he finds the gap, his speed and aggressiveness allows him to turn singles into doubles. Due to his size, his stance is low, but creates solid momentum and allows the ball to come off the bat with hard contact.
He struck out often in 2019, but has slightly improved and turned a few into walks.

Defensively it is uncertain where he ends up playing. He was used more as a 2B in 2019, and has the potential to play in multiple defensive roles. However, his arm isn’t the strongest but makes up for this with his speed and agility.
Jake Tweedie; @MLBUKAnalysis1

REDS

1. 3B Rece Hinds | 20 Years Old
Team Rank: 10th | Dynasty Rank: 139th

Hinds has the potential to turn into one of the prominent bats for the Reds while advancing quickly through the system. Hinds only has three games under his belt in pro-ball so 2021 is a rather important year for Hinds development. His most distinguished tool is his plus-plus raw power that’ll translate well as he matures. His swing develops loads of fly ball contact and with his combination of bat speed and consistent barrels, Hinds has plenty to offer with the bat.

With every high power prospect, Hinds comes with plenty of swing-and-miss but if his pitch selection gets better his 30+ home run potential will start showing, and on top of that if he starts hitting gap-to-gap more he’ll be a nice run producer for the Reds. He has plus arm strength but may not fit at third base with his range and projection. However, the Reds will give every indication for Hinds to stick at the hot corner long term. In the end, Hinds is a top ten prospect for a reason and 2021 will be the start of the Rece Hinds hype train.
– Drake Mann; @DrakeMann4

2. OF Allen Cerda | 21 Years Old
Team Rank: 15th | Dynasty Rank: Unranked

Cerda signed with the Reds in 2017 as an older INTL prospect and performed well all around as an 18YO in the DSL. Showcasing big power and solid athleticism, Cerda spent 2019 in the APPY League before being hit in the face with a pitch and ending his season early. Until that point, he was able to produce a wRC+ of 127 over 39 games played.

Cerda’s strikeout rate did bump to a concerning 33.9% causing his BA to crash down to .220, though he was able to draw enough walks to still OBP a solid .360. Cerda sells out early in his swing and can get exposed at times by stuff and feel, but when he connects, it’s loud. He’s still a wiry 6’3 and 170 LBs, so adding some mass could be a difference maker in his profile.

Cerda has solid foot speed, though it currently helps him more on defense than on the bases. If he doesn’t add weight, he could stick in CF, but the contact skills will need to improve. It’s more likely he adds some weight and shifts to RF and pushes a three-true-outcomes approach. He hits tons of fly balls (46-50%) and can already hit the ball hard (89 avg. EV), so how Cerda attacks 2021 will be very telling towards his future potential. He’s a great rotational athlete with a swing geared to launch and is an adjustment or two from having a massive breakout.
– Danny Brackman; @d__brack


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