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Future All-Stars of the CBL

Future All-Stars of the CBL

Everyone knows the superstars in the CBL now, from the likes of older stars like the recently retired (and turned politician) Evan Longoria and Stephen Strasburg to the new stars like Oscar Cherry and Mason Templet. But, eventually these players will no longer be the players they are now. Injuries will hit them, political aspirations will outweigh their desire to continue playing and sometimes they were just a flash in the pan. When they move out, new players will have to take over as the faces of the CBL. Nothing is for sure, but these players have the best chance to pan out into the superstars of the future.

C Pablo Garcia | Vallejo Admirals | Bats: Switch | Age: 26 | 5’10” – 190 lbs |

27642239094_11f9cb8d76_mSigning with the Miami Marlins (a team in the 27639101973_45639d2db3_mMLB for those of you too young to remember) at age 17, Garcia was a skinny backstop, but he recieved the ball well, could call a good game, and had great discipline at the plate. Except, with the MLB folding, making way for the up and coming CBL, the Marlins ownership didn’t want to let Garcia go, and instead kept him and several other young players and had them play on tour in Latin America. For 8 yearsPablo Garcia Garcia, who is not the sharpest tool in the box, thought that this was the big leagues, since he was given a jersey with his name on his back and free catchers gear. During those 8 seasons, he played well, and eGCL Marlins catcher Pablo Garcia (5) during the first game of a doubleheader against the GCL Mets on July 24, 2015 at the St. Lucie Sports Complex in St. Lucie, Florida. GCL Marlins defeated the GCL Mets 5-4. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)ventually in 2022 when the CBL sued the former MLB teams that were doing similar things to players, he was released and allowed to sign with any team. Being 25 years old and having never made a cent, and also believing he was playing at the highest level for years, he demanded a major league contract, with fully guaranteed money. Several teams were in on him, but he decided to accept a 4-year deal, worth just under $20 million total. Despite having 3 option years left, the Vallejo management decided to keep him in the CBL the entire season, and he preformed well, but he was used as a backup. With the starter from last season (Max Pentecost) deciding to test free agency, Garcia appears to be the best choice to be the starter. As he continues to develop, he looks to be a plus-plus power threat, with a fantastic eye and a good defensive catcher. Although he isn’t ready and is already 26, he looks to be a future backstop superstar.

C Charles Picerni | Connecticut Colonials | Bats: Right | Age: 22 | 5’8″ – 165 lbs |

CJ, as he prefers to be called, was selected number 1 overall in the amateur draft last season, in what some considered a surprise move. Others knew exactly what the Colonials saw in him. He is easily the best catching prospect in years because he does one thing exceptionally that many others struggle at, and that is he catches. His first season as a professional, he struggled at the img_9159plate, but turned heads with his ability to manage his pitching staff, frame pitches and control the run game. After just one week, Kenny Holmberg, his manager, stopped calling pitches and ended doing mound visits. In between innings, Holmberg and Picerni would talk together to decide on if the pitcher could go another inning. CJ knew his staff better than anyone else, and it showed as they pitched to a sub-3 ERA when he was behind the plate. Despite hitting just .170 with just 2 homeruns in his first season, he is seen to have the potential to become a great hitter one day, especially for a catcher. His problem this first season appears to be that he struck 31.2% of the time, but if cuts that number down to what it was in his one season in college (14.5%) you should expect to see all of his numbers rise. Already 22 years old, he is very far from being in the CBL, as he spent the whole season in rookie ball. But when he gets there, people expect him to not just be the best backstop in the league defensively, but also one of the best hitters in the league.

C Pedro Chavez | Erie Seawolves | Bats: Right | Age: 23 | 5’11” – 205 lbs |

Drafted just 2 seasons ago, behind Ernesto Encarnacion, Chavez has plowed through Erie’s minor league system. Some may say it’s GM Doug Trojanowski’s eagerness to build a winning team, but if you look, he has been fantastic at every level thus far. At 23 jonathan_martinez_9sd98r3g_stdjh6kryears old, he’ll start this next season at AAA, and if he continues to do well, look for him to make a September call up, or if not,
he’ll most likely be the starting catcher for Erie in 2024. His greatest asset is his ability to avoid striking out, but he also makes good contact, leading to plus-plus power. Many credit him with him for his work ethic and dedication to the game, as many nights when on road trips, he stays in the hotel room and works on his swing or on how to better sequence pitches when catching. His incredibly smart (his current claim to fame is that he won a Rubik’s cube solving contest when he was 14) and he enjoys Sodoku and crossword puzzles on long bus rides. He will be a major league hitter soon enough, and if he continues to improve his defensive abilities, he will certainly be a mainstay behind the dish.

2B Leonardo Caneque | Charlotte Knights | Bats: Right | Age: 21 | 6’0″ – 190 lbs |

Caneque was founded by a Knights scout in 2018, when he was 16, but they saw a wildly fast kid with quick hands playing stickball in his hometown, Puerto Plata, Puerto Rica. Signed as a left fielder, he was so tiny that the older kids he played with stuck him out there, and that was what he knew. When he made his debut at age 17, he was quickly moved to second base, 14467614142_0ff403dc18_b_iy6q3e2z_ka3hjaluwhere his speed and quick hands made him a vacuum. The only problem was that when he was 9, he had been involved in a gas station robbery, and not being the brightest kid, he decided to try and stop the robber, which got him a bullet in his right arm, which has made it very difficult to throw or hit for power all these years. So even though second base is the shortest throw, he struggles with it when turning a double play. But with superstar sluggers Don Smith and Jorge Ruiz on the roster, Caneque can’t hide at first base or designated hitter, so throughout the minors he’s been working to find ways to play second base more effectively, now even throwing fully submarine. As a hitter though, he’s been truly splendid each of his four seasons in the minors. He’s praised for his ability to make contact often, finding the gaps and using his speed to wreak havoc on the basepathes. Although he may be ready already, he will likely spend the season in AAA simply because of the glut of talent ahead of him. But the Knights will be forced to make room for him soon enough, as his bat is too good to go to waste.

SS Luis Gabriel | Minneapolis Millers | Bats: Right | Age: 19 | 6’0″ – 170 lbs |
At 19 years old, Iceman could be ready as early as the All-Star break this season, not long after his 20th birthday. He does profile best as a mookie-spinnerssecond baseman, but either way he is going to hit for average and get plenty of extra base hits due to his speed. Unlike Caneque, a similar player, and José Pena, the first international signee to make it into the CBL, Gabriel, if played at second base, will be a very serviceable defender. Although he’s only played at double-A at the highest level to this date, if Minneapolis has an opportunity for the wild card slot (brand new this season) they may bring him up to help make the push to the playoffs. If he does, look for him to break out quickly, by using his quick hands to make contact and his speed to make it difficult on defenses.

LF Gregory Nash Jr. | St. Louis Sultans | Bats: Right | Age: 22 | 6’5″ – 240 lbs |

ep-140629414One of the few players that could be called a 5-tool player, or at least as close as they come in the CBL. He’ll never win a batting title, but he will hit around the .300s, and as he continues to progress, he’ll get to the point of being a 30 homerun a year player, or a 50 homerun player in that stadium. He also has great speed on the basepathes, and has a rocket for an arm in right field. He’s not elite at anything really, but he is so damn good at everything that it puts together a player that is unlike many others. He also puts in tons of work, being the first one at the field and the last one to leave, spending extra time perfecting every aspect of his game. He also takes the time, and makes it a point, to talk to every one of his teammates each day to see how they are doing and to keep the locker room happy. Son of former freak show minor leaguer Toe Nash, Gregory Jr. is all of the talent, but with the right personality. Since he saw his father continually in and out of  prison, and never being able to make it to the big leagues, Gregory dedicated himself to being the best person he could, making it a goal of his to finish college. Although, coming out of high school, he was given an offer he couldn’t refuse from Hamilton (now St. Louis). But while he progressed through the minor leagues, he was taking classes in the offseason, and is now only 10 credits from graduation. He has made his debut, spending time in the CBL at the end of last season, but he should be a full time starter this upcoming season, expected to be a big part of the powerful Sultans lineup.

RF Jerry Stollings | Mahoning Valley Scrappers | Bats: Right | Age: 24 | 6’3″ – 200 lbs |

One of the most dominant college hitters in the game, he spent all four seasons at North Carolina State, winning two NAIA FC Golden Bat Awards, getting three All-Star robel-garcia-mahoning-valley-scrappers-2nods and a Gold Glove in CF. This, combined with strong ratings and a relatively poor draft class made Stollings a consensus #1 overall pick, but was traded for 3 pitching prospects only a month after the Gold Sox traded him. That offseason though, Caroline County (Minneapolis) traded Stollings to Altoona for Bryce Dyrda. Altoona held on to him for awhile, considering how little time he spent with teams before, until they shipped him over the state border to Mahoning Valley. Mahoning Valley has since kept him, for over a year now, as they have no holes to fill at the CBL level, and no other prospects to boast. Stollings is happy with his new home for now, even though he is starting the season in AAA, he understands he needs to prove himself to be apart of this championship caliber team, but he can tell that his potential is appreciated in Mahoning Valley, and since they have a world of talent, he can hide some, and stay away from the pressure that comes with being a former #1 overall pick.

LF Valter Adro | Colorado Gold Sox | Bats: Left | Age: 22 | 6’0″ – 185 lbs |

Dixon Machado, Ketel MarteColorado GM Brandon Zima will always dislike the trades he made with Mahoning Valley during the time that Kyle Barret was the GM. He gave up SP Jackson Gillis for much cheaper than he would have due to concerns over stamina, which he quickly improved due to a throwing program implemented by Asheville Tourists pitching coach Mitch Williams. Luckily in that deal, the Gold Sox acquired RP Angel Suero, who was having an unbelievable season. Mahoning Valley quickly regretted trading Suero away, which is why they gave away their top international talent Valter Adro. Adro, a Brazilian born outfielder, has developed nicely into what appears to be the Gold Sox’s ticket to the playoffs, once he is up. He has slowly put it all together in the past two seasons, as he finished in 3rd in the Hawaii Winter Baseball Dole MVP voting this last winter, and will begin this year in AAA. He will never be an above average fielder, but his bat profiles as plus in all categories, along with good speed on the bases. Expect him to be a perennial .260/.340/.450 hitter, if he can stay on the field. His vulnerability to injury is one reason why he no longer catches which was his position in Brazil.

CF Ernesto Encarnación | Connecticut Colonials | Bats: Right | Age: 22 | 6’3″ – 190 lbs |

A career .380 hitter with Texas Tech, with a 162 game average of 50 home runs, since Encarnación first came from Cuba, he has stlouiscardinalsvnewyorkmetserwosjg8qpmlbeen profiled as not just a future #1 overall pick, not just a future CBL All-Star, not just a future face of a franchise, and not just a future MVP. He’s been seen for years as the reincarnation of pieces of all great past Hall of Famers. Tris Speaker’s defense in center field, Roberto Clemente’s arm, Tony Gwynn’s contact, Reggie Jackson’s power and Ricky Henderson’s speed. On top of it all, he’s loved in the clubhouse and by fans for his levelheadedness and ability to lead when he has to. He stresses winning and works as hard as anyone to make sure he does. He is a future Hall of Famer, and potentially will go down as the greatest baseball player in history. At age 22, he could easily come up to the CBL and post not just a positive WAR, but probably a top 50 in the league WAR, and that’s even with his hitting not fully developed. But with Connecticut nowhere near competing for a playoff spot, they can wait up to 3 more seasons before they even have to add Encarnación to their 40-man roster, which means that they can be patient, and wait for him to be fully developed, and have his career start with a possible record breaking season. Already in a poor offensive season (.266/.347/.403 with 5 HR, 42 RBI and 58 R) he posted a 3.9 WAR in 109 games at double-A. Connecticut looks to be an immediate playoff contender if Encarnación comes up and hits like it looks that he can. This is a player to watch for, and an MVP in his rookie season (2025?) would not surprise anyone who has been watching what he can do for years.

CF Alfredo Ortega | Austin Bats | Bats: Right | Age: 21 | 6’4″ – 190 lbs |

eloy-jimenez-2016-awOrtega is everything that Encarnación is, except for the bat. Yes, that is a pretty big part of the game, but Ortega can still hold his own at the plate, just will never put up numbers anywhere close to where Encarnación will. But he will play defense, and he will play it well at the premium position of center field. He will be a future Gold Glove winner in CF, and will hit well enough to be apart of the lineup. He also will be a major piece of the Bats plans, because he is a fantastic leader. He knows what to say, and when to say it, to motivate his teammates. While the Bats already have plenty of players like this, most are pitchers, or backups. That won’t be Ortega. He looks to be slotted in AAA to begin the season, but with two of the Bats starting outfielders injury-prone, he may be called up shortly, and expected to hold it down eloy-jimenezwith his defense. Ortega is another one of those gems that Bats GM Trey Schalk finds over and over. When he was traded to the Bats (from Calgary for SP Kevin Gausman), the general consensus was that his defense was great, but that his offense would never make it, a AAA superstar, but no more. With hitting coaches at every level being told to focus on making Ortega a major league hitter, they did just that, with him looking like “a potential offensive force” according to one scout, with “raw power”. If he puts that all together, there is no doubt he will be an All-Star year in and year out, and may be the hidden piece the Bats have been searching for.

SP Jerry Chandler | Altoona Curve | Throws: Right | Age: 23 | 6’2″ – 190 lbs |

Jerry does have over 2 years of CBL service time, but everyone is still waiting for him to come into his own. At age 19, he was called up for a start for Altoona (3.0 IP, 4 ER, 3 HA, 6 BB) which added him to the 40-man roster and started his service time clock. That offseason he was traded to Charlotte, but Altoona GM Justin Zima immediately regretted the decision and tried to get him back. When it became obvious that he was justin-dunnnot CBL ready, but would be forced to be on the roster due to being out of options, the Knights decided to open trade talks, and eventually came to terms to send Chandler back to Altoona. In his two seasons, he has made 32 starts in 55 appearances, but has not fared well, hovering around the 6.00 ERA mark, after this season he will be available for arbitration, but Altoona appears committed to getting him to reach his full potential. If he ever does, he will be one of the best starting pitchers in the league, boasting a 101 MPH fastball, that he complements with a plus curveball and change up, a plus-plus splitter, and his go-to out pitch, an incredible forkball. He has good movement on all of his pitches, and commands them better now than when he made his first career start. A groundball pitcher with the stamina to go 200+ innings in a season, or 9 innings in any given outing, he is a complete package. Still just 23, he will still be dominant if he ever fulfills his potential.

SP Ernesto Gabriel | Vallejo Admirals | Throws: Right | Age: 17 | 6’2″ – 180 lbs|

This kid still hasn’t even made his professional debut. This is most likely due to his inability to be on his own. A true family’s man,samueldedunoworldbaseballclassicpoolqrsldyq3owml if we can even call him that yet, he was discovered by Vallejo scouts almost 2 years ago, but has stayed in the Dominican all this time. He has continued to develop velocity as he added 6 inches and 50 lbs, and boasts a 97 MPH fastball now. To go with a deadly curveball, an incredible knuckle curve, and some scouts believe he also has a plus changeup. The biggest concern for this young Dominican stud is his movement. His fastball is straight, his change-up is just slower, and his curveball features tons of action, but all in one direction. Other than this, he looks like a sure thing, on the field. Off the field, he really keeps to himself with teammates saying they never see him go out, and he often leaves the game early to go home on his own. As he’s brought into an entirely new culture, with a new language, he may not be able to adjust properly, which will be a real let down as he is an unbelievable talent. Vallejo management seems to be taking things slow with him, hoping to make sure this is not an issue they have to deal with. As he matures with age, they can only hope he is able to adapt to life as a superstar prospect in the US.

SP Christopher Machamer | Charlotte Knights | Throws: Right | Age: 24 | 6’0″ – 210 lbs |

ar-141019402Moved in a three team trade, Machamer was a raw 20 year old at the time, being moved as the main piece in return for fully developed 23 year old outfielder Justin Williams. Closing in on four years since the trade was made, it has yet to be blxfajfciaay-nvdetermined if the trade was a win, for either side. But Machamer certainly looks the part of a future ace, and while he is starting the season in AAA, that is because of the veteran presence on their pitching staff already. This being said, a Machamer led rotation could be seen as soon as later this season, if not the start of next season. A 6′ nothing pitcher with a 101 MPH sinker, with a breakaway slider and a changeup with tons of action, he is a dream. He locates his pitches and while he doesn’t miss bats, very few connect cleanly, causing him to get quick outs, keeping a low pitch count and extend himself late into games. Also, with only 31 appearances in the major leagues, all coming out of the bullpen, he is already a fan favorite because of the in-game entertainment he does. He’s been seen joining in on the costume races (sometimes even playing pranks on them) and is the main host of the trivia and the “which hat is the ball under” games. He appears to be the future of the Knights pitching, and a Bob Feller Pitcher of the Year candidate year in and year out.

SP Juan Jose Acosta | San Diego Surf Dawgs | Throws: Left | Age: 22 | 6’1″ – 185 lbs

Who is this guy, and where did he come from? In 2016, the Surf Dawgs found him in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. They hadn’t even seen him throw yet, they had just heard from a guy whose uncle’s neighbor’s girlfriend had been walking by a
park one day, and heard the sound of the ball hitting the mitt and thought it was impressive. They decided to reach out and figure out who the kid was, and decided to offer him a minor league contract and a free plane ride to the US. At age 16, he Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Toronto Blue Jaysdecided to take the offer, and ended up in beautiful Southern California, where he was living with a host family, and each day he would go to the team facility for lifting, conditioning and throwing. This went on for 3 whole years until they sent him to the real mound, for the Peoria Padres, where he showed well in 12 starts, good enough for a call up to single-A for the next season, where he once again pitched well enough to earn his way to double-A in 2022. This season he will start in AAA, just one step away from the big show. The kid who once spoke no English, couldn’t do his own laundry or cook his own meals, is about to be a big leaguer. A big leaguer who past host families have praised for the effort he put in to be apart of the family, to learn English (well enough to have several articles published in magazines), and he now is even the main chef in the house, sometimes even cooking the post game dinners for the team. The kid that no scout had ever heard of, and even until last season, most scouts were not a fan. But now it’s general consensus that he will be an ace, leading the Surf Dawgs staff, perhaps to the playoffs.

SP Mackson Albright | Austin Bats | Throws: Left | Age: 22 | 6’4″ – 220 lbs |

A 6’4″ 220 lbs stud of a left handed pitcher, recently acquired by the Bats. Of course, not for a small price, but if Mackson, brother of Colorado’s second baseman Cole Albright and prospect center fielder LeRoy Albright, and twin of Texas Tech’s first baseman young_h29mq9am_6ki2cx7aJack Albright (despite the 75 days in between their birthdays), develops, any price would be worth it. He boasts a five-pitch mix, that starts with a cutter, includes two breaking pitches that cause swing-and-misses, and two off speeds, including an amazing splitter. Consistently sitting in the mid-90s, his control of all five pitches, allowing him to throw any pitch in any count, is a major part of his success. He’s also a team leader, voted captain of the high school team as a freshman, over all 3 of his brothers, and again in college, where he went on to graduate in just two years, while putting in 4 hours of lifting and training every day, outside of normal baseball activities. Most likely starting in high-A, Mackson is behind where most 22 year olds would be, but his talent is worth the wait.

SP Johnny Allstaff | Minneapolis Millers | Throws: Left | Age: 19 | 6’0″ – 160 lbs |

grant-watson2Talk about a name. His parents clearly wanted a baseball player, and well, they certainly got one. At 160 lbs soaking wet, he’s nothing special in terms of size, but he still gets up to 94 MPH, with a sinker-slider combo that would do wonders on it’s own, but he also adds a plus-plus change up that is his go-to pitch in all counts. While his last name is simply too good to be true, Johnny earned his namesake, as he is ready, and eager to take the ball, every day. It’s been rumored that on days after he threw complete games, with well over 100 pitches, that he would show up to the field and dress for the game, hoping to be used again. He also has gone into his coaches office many times to beg to throw on short rest, albeit he was never allowed to, as the team wants to save that for the CBL. Either way, this left handed standout looks to be the future of the Millers pitching staff, even though he did struggle last season, much of that can be attributed to his young age and small stature. If he can gain some weight, there’s no telling what he can do.

SP Alfredo Hogan | Erie SeaWolves | Throws: Right | Age: 22 | 5’11” – 160 lbs |

The former high school standout has bounced around quite a bit in recent years, first being released by the Bats (who originally drafted him) before landing with the Knights, who traded him to Syracuse, only to reacquire him less than 2 months later. Then he tateo1was included in the latest trade of Jerry Chandler between Charlotte and Altoona, and lastly was flipped to Vallejo for other top pitching prospect (who narrowly missed this list) Alex Brantley. Vallejo seemed like his final stop until he would make his major league debut, until he was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft, and he’s now living in Erie. 3 months later, he had his 5th major injury, which may cause him to miss the entire season. This puts him in an odd position, as the injury is one he should bounce back from, but an entire season lost could set him back. He has a strong three pitch repertoire, with a 98 MPH fastball, a hard sinker, and a filthy curveball that freezes hitters. He also adds a change up that he is still working on, but is coming along nicely. Despite his miniature stature, he fires the ball close to 100 MPH, but since he puts all he has into every pitch, his stamina is low, some managers even considered making him throw every 6 days, or have a strict 75 pitch count. When he returns from this latest injury, his hard work should be a major key in helping him return to where he was beforehand, and if he does, Erie may have their ace for the time being.

SP Marlo Stanfield | Vallejo Admirals | Throws: Right | Age: 22 | 6’3″ – 205 lbs |

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays- WorkoutAs one scout says it, Marlo “plays all out, and his grit and determination make his tools better” which explains why he is so well liked by all to be a future All-Star. With a strong, hard moving fastball to go with his plus-plus slider and changeup, Stanfield looks to be a superstar in the making. But to add to it, he also projects one of the best forkballs in the game, which leads to his being known as a groundball pitcher. Recently moved from the Sultans to the Admirals, he could be missed in St. Louis, especially since he would be fantastic for their hitter friendly field. Still lightyears away at age 22, Stanfield is certainly a long term project for Vallejo, but he seems to be more than worth whatever wait he is. Admirals fans in several years will forget the name Corey Seager, especially as Stanfield leads their staff on his way to countless All-Star games.

SP Greg Boyle | St. Louis Sultans | Throws: Right | Age: 21 | 6’1″ – 175 lbs |

Easily the highest potential of any pitcher on this list, Booger will be one of the top 5 pitchers in this league when he’s developed. michael-kopech-2015-tpThrowing a 100 MPH 2-seam fastball, with a curveball that looks edited on video, a slider that moves on two planes and a splitter that is near impossible to hit. To add to the filth of his pitches, he also throws all four with accuracy, allowing him to rely on any pitch in any count. The pick made directly after Steve Beck, Boyle looks like he could end up the better player. As Boyle is in AAA, he is still likely more than a year away from a CBL debut, but once he does, he will face Beck several times a year, as they are in the same division. It could be a matchup of Louisville Slugger Batting champ versus Bob Feller Best Pitcher Award winner every year. The only think downfall to Boyle at this time, is the stadium he will play in when he finally reaches the CBL. It could certainly impact his stats, but if he is truly as amazing as he projects, it won’t matter where he pitches.

 

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Matthew Wells
Matthew Wells | General Manager - Charlotte Knights

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