Welcome to the third installment of our Weekly Hot Prospects Report ranking the top minor-league performances from the week of April 24th through 30th:
1. Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)
CES had just returned from the IL to play one game before the week started, but he made his presence known with a massive three-day binge starting on Wednesday by going 10-for-15 with 4 homers, a double and 9 RBIs. He finished the week with a triple-slash of .458/.519/1.000 to go with those 4 home runs. CES looked like he was going to break camp with the Reds on the strength of a dominant spring training performance of a 1.748 OPS and 4 homers in 26 at-bats, but instead he was reassigned to minor league camp before it was revealed his back had been hurting all spring and he would start the season on the IL. We called him on the verge of a call-up on Friday on the heels of his outburst and his days with Louisville continue to be numbered with the Reds having first basemen Joey Votto and Wil Myers both on the IL.
2. Denzel Clarke, OF, Athletics (Double-A Midland)
Clarke (pictured above) made his season debut on Thursday after spending the first month sidelined by a shoulder strain, hitting two home runs and drawing two walks. He homered again on Friday and Sunday, finishing the week 8-for-16 with 9 runs, 3 doubles, 4 homers, 9 RBIs, 1 steal and a ridiculous OPS of 2.107. Clarke is as tooled up as they come with massive raw power and 70-grade speed on a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame. He is cousins with Josh and Bo Naylor of the Guardians and his mother was an Olympian heptathlete for Canada. Clarke had a combined 15 homers and 30 steals in 93 games last year between Low- and High-A, but he struck out 135 times. He has 5 strikeouts in his first 4 games, so how fast he can climb the ladder to Oakland depends on cutting down on the whiffs. The ceiling is off the charts if he can.
3. Jonatan Clase, OF, Mariners (High-A Everett)
Clase was No. 1 on this report last week with 3 homers, 7 steals and a 1.291 OPS and was even better this past week with 4 homers, 4 steals and a 1.433 OPS. The caveat with Clase is that Everett is one of the more hitter-friendly venues around, but Clase has been even better on the road (1.205 OPS) than at home (1.132 OPS). His biggest wart is that he strikes out too much – 27 times in 100 plate appearances this season – but the 7 home runs and 17 steals will make fantasy owners look the other way if he can come anywhere close to keeping this up. The Mariners will need to test Clase soon with a promotion to Double-A.
4. Cade Povich, LHP, Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
A third-rounder out of Nebraska in the 2021 draft, Povich was supposed to be just a pitchability lefty. Instead, he’s added velocity and become a strikeout artist, including last week’s 10-K gem, allowing just one hit in five scoreless innings on Saturday against Richmond. Povich has 27 strikeouts in 17 innings to go with a 3.77 ERA. He was acquired last August from the Twins as part of a four-player package for Jorge Lopez that has already netted the Orioles a major find for their bullpen in Yennier Cano. Last season, Povich combined for 148 strikeout in 114 innings between High-A and Double-A. Armed with a deep arsenal that features a mid-90s fastball and a 60-grade sweeper, the 23-year-old could make it to Baltimore this summer.
5. Landon Knack, RHP, Dodgers (Double-A Tulsa)
Coming off a start where he lasted just 2/3 of an inning, Knack bounced back with an electric performance of 11 strikeouts in 5 scoreless innings on Saturday against Arkansas, allowing just two hits and two walks. A second-round pick out of East Tennessee State in 2020, Knack is repeating Double-A, where he was 2-10 with a 5.01 ERA. Poor conditioning has led to frequent muscle pulls and strains in the past, but Knack appears to be straightening things out this year with a 1.45 ERA and a 21-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18.2 innings. With a mid-90s fastball and three other pitches that are working right now, Knack has the ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation starter but could wind up helping in the Dodgers’ bullpen by September.
6. Nick Frasso, RHP, Dodgers (Double-A Tulsa)
The Dodgers stole Frasso from the Blue Jays in the Mitch White deal last August and now the 24-year-old right-hander is breaking out with a 1.23 ERA for Tulsa. Frasso started the week with 8 strikeouts and no walks in 5 innings on Tuesday, allowing 3 hits and one run. He followed up with 4 scoreless innings with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks, allowing just one hit. The 12 strikeouts in 9 innings for the week ran his season totals to 30 strikeouts and 5 walks in 22 innings. Generating huge extension from a 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, Frasso features a plus-plus fastball that touches 100 mph and has late run. He will need more development of his secondary offerings to reach his potential as a mid-rotation stud otherwise he could wind up a dominant reliever.
7. Junior Caminero, SS, Rays (High-A Bowling Green)
If the Dodgers stole Frasso, the Rays committed grand larceny in taking Caminero off Cleveland for Tobias Myers in November 2021. Caminero broke out last year by combining to hit .314 with 11 homers and 12 steals in 62 games between the Florida Complex League and Low-A. Caminero homered in three straight games as part of a huge week in which the 19-year-old posted a triple-slash of .435/.458/.957 with a double and a triple to go with the 3 long balls. Caminero is batting .392 with 7 homers on the season and could find his way to Double-A before turning 20 on July 5.
8. Spencer Jones, OF, Yankees (High-A Hudson Valley)
Jones did a little bit of everything in the past week, collecting 3 homers, 1 double, 1 triple, 8 runs, 6 RBIs and 3 steals to go with a 1.255 OPS. The 6-foot-7, 225-pound slugger is doing nothing to prevent the inevitable comparisons to Aaron Judge as a towering, athletic Yankees outfielder, posting a .939 OPS with 5 homers and 7 steals in 18 games. Drafted in the first round out of Vanderbilt last year, Jones should be pushed to Double-A soon and could arrive in New York as early as next spring.
9. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
The 23-year-old lefty should find himself back in St. Louis soon with many more starts like the gem he tossed on Saturday, striking out 9 in 6 scoreless innings against Durham. Liberatore did issue 3 walks, but gave up just 3 hits to lower his ERA to 2.14 with a 45-12 K-BB in 33.2 innings. The 2018 first-round pick struggled in 9 games for St. Louis last year with a 5.97 ERA and 1.73 WHIP, but his velocity is up this season and his strikeout rate along with it. With Adam Wainwright about to return to the Cardinals rotation, Liberatore will continue trying to force the issue to gain a promotion to St. Louis.
10. Blake Dunn, OF, Reds (High-A Dayton)
Just a 15th-round pick in 2021 out of Western Michigan, Dunn put himself on the prospect map with a massive week – batting .550 with 3 homers, 4 steals, 9 runs and 10 RBIs. He also walked 4 times, giving him 12 free passes against 13 strikeouts in 19 games for Dayton. Battling through numerous injuries over the past two years, Dunn has played in just 67 minor-league games but has 36 steals to go with 10 homers and a .455 OBP. As an older, unheralded outfielder prospect putting up big numbers in the lower levels, Dunn reminds us of Vaun Brown, who broke out in the Giants system last year. We’ll be moving Dunn into our next weekly-updated RotoProspects Top 500 Rankings.