Welcome to a new feature here at Over The Monster in which we will be looking at the best players on the farm from the past week. With the new minor-league schedule being implemented this year that has teams playing six-game series every week with Mondays off, there are no Minor Lines on Tuesdays. We figured rather than just leaving that timeslot blank every week, we’d hand out some fake, virtual hardware. Each week, we’ll pick players of the week for both position players and pitchers, as well as an honorable mention in each category. (See Previous Winners Here)
Position Player of the Week
Nick Yorke, Salem
Yorke struggled to get things going here in his first professional season early on, which really wouldn’t be that notable given it was really only a few bad weeks. Of course, with the infielder being such a controversial selection in the first round the year before, it was easy to be down on the player right away, especially if you were predisposed to be disappointed in the pick. But he has turned things on in a big way since then, with this being his second mention in this column and his first as the top position player. This past week was a huge one for the 19-year-old, playing in five games, the righty slashed .500/.625/.1.056, adding three home runs in the process.
This was certainly the best week of the year for Yorke, but he’s been swinging one of the best bats in the system really for the past month or so. The power we saw this past week was a little out of the norm, but overall on the season (even including his rough start to the year), he has hit .312/.405/.456, showing a tremendous ability to put the ball in play, and to do so well enough to turn those balls into hits. He also shows an approach at the plate that is not exactly common in players his age.
With the way he’s been hitting for what is now the majority of the season, it’s hard not to put Yorke right up there with some of the best position player prospects in the system. He’s not in the Triston Casas/Jarren Duran tier, but it’s not ridiculous to start thinking about him in that next tier. He does still need to prove it against higher levels, of course, and the power (aside from this past week) is more fine than great, but he can play up the middle and he can get on base. That alone is enough for a long career if he continues to prove it as he moves up the ladder. Don’t be surprised if he gets a quick taste of High-A before this season is over, even despite not turning 20 until next April.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Scott, Greenville
Scott was a senior sign out of Vanderbilt back in 2019, and he has done nothing but hit since joining the system. This is his second time in this column, also coming in as the honorable mention in the very first week of the season, and this past week he hit .389/.450/1.000, also matching Yorke with three homers. On the season he’s putting up an .889 OPS. Scott can play a few different spots, getting time in the corner outfield as well as first base, and more recently the team is trying to make it work behind the plate. I’m among the skeptical that it can work, but if he can even play there part-time that’s probably his best route to a major-league role somebody.
Pitcher of the Week
Brandon Walter, Greenville
We are going to start calling this the Brandon Walter Pitcher of the Week. This is his second straight week being recognized in the top spot, and third time over the past seven weeks. It’s been an incredible breakout season for Walter, and one that only continued with a two-start week this past week. In his two starts he tossed a combined 11 innings, allowing just a single run while striking out 13 and walking three.
Walter’s breakout has been among the best in the entire system, and it feels as though it’s still flying a bit under the radar. That’s likely because of timing. Whereas someone like Brayan Bello came out of the gates hot and got that early attention, Walter, a former 26th rounder from 2019, started his season in relief. But since moving into Salem’s rotation about midway through the season, he’s been electric. It only took him a couple of starts to get promoted to Greenville, and he hasn’t slowed down. Overall on the season, including his stints in relief, Walter has pitched to a 2.70 ERA over 60 innings of work, striking out 92 while walking only 12.
It’s fair to wonder why he’s not more highly thought of given those numbers, and the answer is two-fold. First, he is starting to move up the rankings. Sox Prospects didn’t have him ranked at all before, and now he’s just outside the top 40. But the reason he’s not moving up any higher at this point is because we still need to see it against higher levels. He’s been impressive without a doubt, but he’s still a 24-year-old in A-Ball who will turn 25 in less than a month. He can only pitch against the competition he’s given, but the challenge just isn’t quite high enough. It’s aggressive to promote him again after just recently being pushed up to High-A, but to me he’s just having too easy of a time of late, and I want to see him get a couple of turns for Portland before this season is out.
Honorable Mention: Bradley Blalock, Salem
I know people are going to expect to see Connor Seabold here, who had a great start at Triple-A. Usually his start would be good enough for the top spot, but he was unlucky enough to have two pitchers have great two-start weeks. For Blalock, he tossed 10 innings between his two outings, allowing just one earned run (two total) with 12 strikeouts and two walks. Blalock was taken out of high school late in the 2019 draft, and he’s been a bit inconsistent this season with a 4.15 ERA and about a strikeout per inning. He strikes me as a reliever long-term, but the team will keep him in the rotation until he proves he can’t handle it.