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
Pedro Castellanos, Portland
Castellanos was one of the players I was most intrigued to see again coming into the season, and while he’s had a pretty solid year this is actually his first appearance in this column all year. He saved it right for the end, with Portland’s season ending this past week, along with that of Greenville, Salem, and the FCL. But we’re here for Castellanos, who had a monster final week of the season. The outfielder hit .480/.517/.880 for the week, hitting two doubles, two homers, and a triple for good measure.
As I said, overall it has been a pretty solid year for Castellanos. He was dealing with a position change to start with, as he’d spent his career as a first baseman but suddenly found himself on a roster with Triston Casas, meaning the cold corner was out of the question. So he was adjusting to life as an outfielder (mostly in left, though he did even get a turn at center field just before the end of the season), and in the meantime was hitting well at the plate. Castellanos finished his season hitting .289/.364/.471, showing solid power and a good ability to make contact.
Castellanos doesn’t have a huge ceiling as there is no one tool at the plate that really pops, and his defensive profile is limited. But the question for him as far as even making it to the majors was how the power would play. The righty always showed big power potential in batting practice, but for whatever reason it just never transferred into game power. That changed over the last six weeks or so of the 2019 season, but we had to wait all the way until this year to find out if that was real. He ended up finishing 2021 with a plenty-respectable .182 Isolated Power, and he even added a little positional versatility. It still seems like a bench bat or second division regular is the ceiling here, but that’s not an outcome to sneeze at.
Honorable Mention: Nicholas Northcut, Salem
Northcut always seemed to fly below my radar for whatever reason this season, but he had a really intriguing season and finished off with a big week. In his final stretch of 2021 he hit .417/.440/.792. This is his third time being mentioned in this column over the course of the season. We’ll talk about him a bit more later this morning, so I won’t waste all my bullets now.
Pitcher of the Week
Bradley Blalock, Salem
One thing about the new minor-league schedule the league ran with this season in which teams got Mondays off in the full-season leagues (a change I liked a lot, for whatever it’s worth) is that you only got, at most, one two-start week per affiliate per week. It’s hard to get one of those in which both are good, so this spot has mostly been a space to talk about the best start of the week. But Blalock got it done on the two-start week to finish the season. He wasn’t super dominant in the starts, but he was quite good in both, and in total allowed just two runs over 10 innings of work, striking out nine and walking three. This is his second time getting a nod here in 2021.
Blalock was the team’s 32nd round pick out of high school back in 2019, getting a signing bonus that came in a bit overslot. The righty was up and down all season and ended up with just okay numbers. In all, he made 23 starts totaling 86 1⁄3 innings, and he pitched to a 4.27 ERA with a 22 percent strikeout rate and a 10 percent walk rate.
There is not a ton of intrigue with the young righty from a scouting perspective, at least not as a starter. That said, he’s still only 20 years old and in relief his command wouldn’t need to tick up quite as much to play. Blalock has the fastball and a couple of breaking balls, and his changeup issues would be less of a concern. Given his age, they may give him a little more time to figure things out as a starter, but to me if he is going to make it up to the majors it seems much more likely it’ll come in shorter stints.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Walter, Greenville
We can’t end the minor-league season (for a big chunk of the farm anyway) and not have one last Walter mention. He was probably the biggest surprise of the whole system this year, and he went out strong. The southpaw went five innings in his final start of 2021, allowing one run on two hits while striking out eight and not issuing a walk. Keep an eye out tomorrow for a bit more on Walter’s season as a whole.