We’re about to enter week seven of the minor league season, so it felt like a good time to take a look at some of the early season performers and breakouts (and let’s note that they may not be both).

Alex McGarry

The recently turned 24-year-old has been on fire for the Dayton Dragons all season long. He’s easily been the best performing hitter in the Cincinnati Reds farm system this year. McGarry leads the organization with 11 home runs, 21 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and he’s hitting .323/.365/.802 to top the farm in both slugging and OPS. His 1.168 OPS leads the next closest player, Matt McLain, by 249 points.

McGarry hit 11 home runs in 2021 while splitting time with both Daytona and Dayton. That came in 85 games played. 78 of those games came with Dayton and he hit just .230/.280/.367 with 16 doubles and 7 home runs. While he still has some catching up to do on the doubles, he’s already matched his home run output and is well on his way to catching up on everything else.

Michael Siani

It’s still early in the year, but Michael Siani is having by far the best season he’s had in his career. During the 2021 campaign in Dayton, Siani hit just .216/.321/.327. He was injured early in the year, and while he was healthy enough to hit, he didn’t play in the field until late in the first month of the season. Perhaps that had something to do with his struggles, but even if it did, what he’s been doing this season is more than just a physical difference.

Through the first 30 games of the season, Siani is hitting .283/.366/.460. While all of his numbers are up across the board, it’s what he’s doing when it comes to balls and strikes that’s the biggest improvement. And it seems to have started last fall when he went to the Arizona Fall League. It was just 14 games, but Siani walked 10 times with just 9 strikeouts. This season he’s kept that going, walking 15 times with just 18 strikeouts. His walk rate is actually lower this season than last by about 1%. But his strikeout rate is almost half of what it was last season, going from 25.2% to 13.7%.

Andrew Abbott

The only player mentioned in this article that began the season as a Top 25 Reds prospect, Abbott was coming off of his senior year at Virginia and limited to just 13.0 innings pitched after signing as Cincinnati’s 2nd round pick last summer. He dominated at Virginia, striking out 162 batters in 106.2 innings as a senior.

This season he’s been even better than he was at Virginia. He was so good in Dayton, where he posted a 0.67 ERA in 27.0 innings across five games, that the Reds promoted him to Double-A Chattanooga. In his first game there he struck out 12 batters without a walk in 5.2 shutout innings. Between the two stops he’s posted a 0.55 ERA in 32.2 innings with 19 hits allowed – just one homer – and has walked seven batters while striking out 40.

Joe Boyle

Coming out of college at Notre Dame, Joe Boyle was an enigma. He had elite stuff with a triple-digit fastball and a hammer breaking ball that graded out better than the fastball. But he also walked 48 batters in 36.0 innings pitched out of the bullpen in his three seasons for the Fighting Irish.

An injury late in spring training kept Boyle out much of the 2021 season, returning for the final six weeks of a shortened minor league season that didn’t begin until May. There were some strong performances in his eight games between the Arizona Complex League and Low-A Daytona where he struck out 41 batters in 19.2 innings and posted a 2.29 ERA. But he also struggled with the strikezone, walking 14 batters (and 13 of those came in 12.2 innings once joining Daytona).

This season it’s been similar, but at a higher level. Now with High-A Dayton, Boyle has 35 strikeouts in 21.2 innings. He’s also allowed just one run and that run scored after he had turned the game over to a reliever. Oh, and he’s allowed just three hits all season. He’s walked 19 batters, and while they haven’t haunted him yet (because as we all know, walks will haunt), it’s still a rate that must come down as he continues his development.

23 Responses

  1. weigarp

    Thanks Doug for doing this article. I’ve been impressed by these 4 players and many others. While McGarry’s power numbers impress, his 40% K rate is unstainable for lasting success (at least at higher levels.) It’s the same reason I don’t have much long-term hope for Austin Hendrick.

  2. Bourgeois Zee

    Boyle is such an outlier and interesting prospect. He’s historically hard to hit, but also an extreme outlier in terms of walks. I wonder how that’ll work as he moves up the ladder. That slider is truly a wipe-out pitch– and his fastball is an 80 pitch too.

    Super interested in seeing how he does moving into AA and AAA.

    I think he could be Tanner Rainey right now.

    But he might be something more too.

    • Doc

      It would be interesting to see a running comparison, at comparable levels, of Joe Boyle, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. The latter two seemed to do all right in MLB despite having an aversion to the strike zone, especially as they were coming up.

      • Stock

        I think Randy Johnson is a much better comp than Ryan because RJ had the best slider in the game and it took time to learn to throw it for strikes. This is similar to what Boyle is doing because his slider moves so much also.

        RJ: Age 22/A ball/3.16 ERA/1.53 WHIP/7.1 BB/9/10 K/9
        Ryan: Age 19/A/2.51 ERA/1.29 WHIP/6.2 BB/9/13.4 K/9
        Ryan: Age 22/ML/3.53ERA/1.26WHIP/5.3BB/9/9.3K/9
        Boyle: Age 22/A/0.42 ERA/1.02WHIP/7.9 BB/9/14.5 K/9

        Boyle seems very difficult to hit. When players do put the ball in play many times it is an IFFB (11 FB this year, 5 of which are IFFB).

        By the end of the year I think Boyle’s BB/9 will be less than 6 and he should be a top 50 prospect overall.

      • Luke J

        It’s probably semantics, but Boyle appears to throw a traditional 12/6 curveball, not a slider. At least when I have watched him pitch he seemed to pretty much rely on the fastball and curve. That curve is nasty though, but definitely a curve, not a slider.

  3. LDS

    McGarry is a year or two older than most of the competition at that level. I assume his progress was delayed by COVID and we should expect him to move up a level soon?

    • Doug Gray

      If it were up to me, and it’s not and no one ever asks, I’d keep him in Dayton until he starts making more contact. He’s either striking out or hitting extra-base hits. He’s a true 2-outcome player right now. It’s working, but it won’t keep working. Has to make more contact, and ideally, walk more, too.

      • LDS

        Makes sense. Not an optimistic outcome given his age I’m guessing. Thanks.

      • DaveCT

        Seems like good prospects for the dreaded organizational filler role without making more contact. Upside at this point is, what, a platoon 1B/LF/RF guy? There’s value to that though we’ve seen this before.

  4. Jim t

    Thanks for posting Doug. I’m very interested in watching Siani. If he keeps making progress hitting the baseball he could get in the outfield mix.

  5. redsfan4040

    Tenerowicz could also be on this list. He’s continuing his strong finish to last season, and in May, he has almost a .400/.500/.700 slash line. He should go take over 1b in Louisville. (and a 900+ OPS vs lefties)

    How does Cristian Santana’s defense look? I haven’t really seen many games, so I just have fielding % to go by, which for him, isn’t great. His offense though, by the numbers, shows he makes contact and gets on base.

    • Stock

      Elly De La Cruz has been fantastic in May also.
      12% BB rate
      21% K rate
      1.014 OPS
      0.271 ISO

      • Old Big Ed

        The May walk rate — granted, in a very small sample size — is very good news.

        De La Cruz appears on paper to be much better as a LH hitter, plus every one of the “barrel” highlights that I’ve seen of him is as a LH hitter. I wonder if there is any notion of his becoming a full-time LH hitter.

      • DaveCT

        Ed, I’d say this sounds like a similar approach as to whether to keep him at SS and/or middle infield. Let him play himself off of the position, so also let him hit his way to being a ML switch-hitter, or not.

  6. Stock

    With Greene/Barrero/Lodolo probably being non-prospects by midseason it will be interesting to see whom takes over as the number 1. As well as De La Cruz has done this month (K% down to 21%) he would seem the frontrunner. Abbott is quickly moving up though and could challenge for the top spot come July. Matt McLain is also looking very good but would be difficult for him to pass De La Cruz.

    • DaveCT

      That’s be a big, big jump for Abbott. I do think it’s possible we see him move into the bottom half of the top ten, though. Fair or unfair, his reported stuff isn’t top shelf (even though the breaking ball is possibly a plus pitch) and its his command/control that powered his success at Hi-A. Now, if he chews up AA hitters for the rest of the season, that may change. I’m always interested in pitchers who can play with their food.

    • DaveCT

      Outside of Abbott, there are some higher end arms like Williamson, Petty, and Phillips, who I suspect we’ll see in revised, midseason lists. Also, if Siani continues to show improvement and to break out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneak into the Top Ten. And, the guys who are struggling, i.e., Hinds, may drop out though prognosticators will often give them a whole season.

  7. SteveO

    Looks like Callihan will debut this season for Daytona today.
    Hopefully, in the starting lineup at 2B.

    • SteveO

      Ditto for Vellojin. Good boost for the Tortugas!

    • DaveCT

      Love to see Ivan Johnson get back soon, too (though not at Lo-A obviously).

      • SteveO

        Definitely! I think he’s on the same path to being active as Barrero. Late May/early June is my guess for both.

  8. kevinz

    Cutting the k’s def has Helped Siani for sure.
    But even if Numbers did not show it.
    He walked same amount times last year.
    Same amount he had he year before.
    But did it in about 100 less AB’s.
    Glad approach showing up in the Numbers now so far.