When NC State slugger LuJames Groover aka “Gino” made the decision to transfer from UNC Charlotte to NC State. He did so with the belief he needed to face stiffer competition to prepare himself for the majors.
He was enticed by the Wolfpack’s proven track record for developing MLB talent and that played a major role in Groover making the move following his successful season for the 49ers where he batted .351 in 205 plate appearances.
The move to Raleigh seems to have paid off for the sweet-swinging power hitter. Gino stepped up his game as the competition elevated and torched quality ACC pitching to the tune of .364 with 16 doubles, 10 home runs and 47 RBI in his 274 plate appearances. Known for his ability to spray the ball over the outfield, Groover’s bat caught the eye of many major league teams, with most deeming him a top-five hitter and a very early-round selection in the upcoming July draft.
Groover Is Taking The Process In Stride
During his current junior season with the Wolfpack he’s batting, .328 on 238 plate appearances along with 43 RBI and 10 homers. He’s also been walked an ACC-high 33 times, as pitchers look to avoid him.
Prior to the season, in an interview with Baseball Prospect Journal, Groover talked about how he’s handling all the noise surrounding him being one of the top hitters and MLB prospects.
“The experience is great,” Groover said. “I have talked to a bunch of teams. It’s really for them to get to know you, and I like to say I’m a lot more than just a baseball player. It’s an opportunity.”
What impresses scouts about Groover is hit ability to put bat-to-ball, and his ability to drive the baseball to all parts of the field. As for his hitting prowess, Groover says he’s always been a hitter, and that he’s worked tirelessly on becoming a complete hitter.
“I have always been able to hit. I learned how to hit at a young age, and I’m growing into my power. It is becoming more consistent. I think that is where I am going to take off. I’ve worked on it, developed it and became consistent with it.”
Position Switch Has Been Great For Groover
After primarily playing first base at UNC Charlotte, Groover moved to third base upon his arrival with the Wolfpack, and he was magnificent on the hot corner. Displaying range and instincts unbeknownst to most.
“Defensively, I have been at third, and a lot of people probably never seen me over there,”Groover said. “But it is where I’ve spent my whole life, so I think I’m going to turn some heads this year on the defensive end.”
The 6-foot-2- and 215-pound Groover, has continued his strong defensive play at third, pretty much solidifying his position at the next level. Groover is ranked No. 45 on the MLB Draft prospect rankings. MLBbro,com projects him as an early second-round pick in the upcoming draft.
Harry Ford Jr. gives great hope to the future and legacy of MLBbro catchers. He’s another in a long line of talented Black prospects that the Seattle Mariners organization has drafted over the years. The Mariners are coming off a 90-72 season which saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
It was just their fifth postseason appearance in franchise history (47 seasons), with the bulk of those appearances coming in the mid-to-late 1990s during Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy “Big Unit” Johnson’s tenure. Last season’s ALDS loss wasn’t a total surprise as they did lose to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros. In the end, it was a feeling these new-look Mariners hope to continue to have come late September and early October during the MLB season.
Dusty Baker Can Bring Back Two Things For The Houston Astros This Postseason…A Championship and Respect
Harry Ford Joins Julio Rodriguez As Another Future Cornerstone Piece
Led by 22-year-old slugger Julio Rodriguez and MLBbro Gold Glove shortstop JP Crawford, the “Emerald City” believes they’re here to stay, and baseball is once again a joy to watch. While Rodriguez signals the right now, first-round pick Harry Ford symbolizes the future. Very soon, their destinies will merge and together they will help lead the franchise.
Ford, the Mariners’ No.1 ranked prospect is only 20, but the team believes he’ll be ready for a call-up in 2025. That’s pretty amazing considering he’s just two years removed from playing high school games.
Ford Has Shined At High-A Everett
Ford shined in his minor league season-opener, going 3-5 with three singles and two RBI in a come-from-behind extra innings 4-3 win. Most impressive was Ford’s ability to hit the baseball to all parts of the field. He also threw out a base runner showing his fielding prowess and strong arm.
Ford’s play caught the attention of Mariners’ director of player development Justin Toole, who told reporters this about the franchise’s top prospect.
“Harry’s athleticism was on full display, and you saw a little bit of everything he can do.”
This season Ford has a current slash line of .265/.446/.475 with three home runs 12 RBI and five stolen bases in 17 games. The No.46 prospect in MLB’s Pipeline hit 11 dingers with 65 RBI and also had thefts last season for Low-A Fresno, routinely flashing his power and elite base stealing prowess.
Ford Was Bro Bombing In WBC
While Great Britain didn’t make the WBC, it wasn’t for lack of effort by Ford, who bashed three homers and drove in eight runs during the qualifying rounds. His display of power and plate presence threw fear into opposing pitchers from all over the world.
That and his opening night performance drew more praise from Toole.
“There’s a lot to like about him as a player and a person,” Toole said. “And it was good to see all the work he’s been putting in show up on Opening Night. Really happy for him to get off to that kind of start.”
Ford has continued to play well, and it shouldn’t be long before he’s off to Double-A ball as the team ramps up his preparation to join the Mariners in early 2025, maybe even for Opening Day.
The Houston Astros organization is currently playing in its fourth World Series in the last six seasons. That despite losing key pieces like outfielder George Springer, shortstop Carlos Correa and pitcher Gerrit Cole over the last couple of seasons. But that’s why they’ve become the standard franchise in baseball over that timeframe. They found other pieces to step in and replace those key cogs. That comes from having a great farm system loaded with talent at many different positions.
One player currently developing in the Stros farm system is outfielder Zach Daniels, a talented player chosen in the fourth round of the 2020 five-round MLB Draft. Daniels was able to overcome early struggles in college and then make the cut in a year where the draft was severely shortened. At Tennessee, he sputtered through his first two seasons, only to bounce back in his COVID-19 shortened junior season with splits of .357/.478/.750 in just 17 games played.
Daniels is performing well in the Arizona Fall League, showing that unique blend of speed, raw power and supreme athleticism.
Daniels, the Astros 29th-ranked prospect hit a 481- foot moonshot homerun that registers as the longest dinger hit by an Astros player in 2022. That distinction was previously held by slugger Yordan Alvarez who’s 469-foot shot in May sent shockwaves through the RingCentral Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics.
Daniels told reporters this, following his big homer ….
“It’s probably the longest in my career. Probably one of the top exit velos for my home runs, too. So definitely a big home run for me.”
Daniels Has Above Average Raw Power: Struggles With Off-Speed Pitches
Throughout his Tennessee career, Daniels displayed solid power, but he also matured with his approach to the plate. Daniels started to understand how making contact and allowing pitchers to provide the power, rather than swinging for the fences, can actually produce more favorable power results.
“You let him be the power, to be honest. I can’t take credit,” Daniels said. “But, definitely, you have to shorten up and then just let him supply the power. You don’t have to try too hard or hit it as hard.”
The next step in Daniels’ development is to become better at hitting the off-speed pitches. Until then, he’s going to have problems as pitchers will continue to throw him junk they know you can’t hit.
Daniels Needs To Look No Further Than Jeremy Peña For Motivation
Daniels was fortunate to be around Astros rising star Jeremy Peña during the spring. In fact, both were routinely part of the same hitting group. While Peña earned a job from the jump and has blossomed into one of the stars of this Astros World Series run, Daniels has a little more work to do. Seeing Peña win the 2022 ALCS MVP is also good for Daniels, as it allows him a first-hand look at what hard work and dedication to your craft can do. Daniels is now even mimicking Peña’s plate discipline and stance.
“It’s kind of lay back and rotate as I go,” said Daniels explaining Pen’s style. “That allows me to make an in-game adjustment a little bit better and let’s my bat come through the zone a bit cleaner too as well.”
This MLBbro has all the tools, but he’ll need to show consistency to reach the Majors as Peña has already done. If he does, he could provide another power bat and solid glove for the Astros.
But that seems to be pipe dream as the team plans to develop him strictly as a position player and not as a pitcher. Meaning he could become one of the tallest shortstops to ever take the infield of in a Major League game.
Charles nearly returned to college at UC Santa Barbara, but he and the Royals agreed right before the August 1 deadline. With the intriguing prospect in tow, the Royals are now focused on developing him into another in the growing trend of tall shortstops around MLB.
During a visit to the Royals training complex in Surprise, Arizona, Charles says he realized he was more than ready for professional baseball.
“The visit just opened my eyes to see what they’re doing. I knew it was a good organization and fit.”
Charles Is Part Of Growing Trend Of NBA-Size Shortstops
Playing shortstop requires great instincts and feel, and that’s something the Royals say Charles possesses. The team’s hitting coordinator Drew Saylor raved about the Charles’ abilities and traits he possesses.
“He’s got great feel, great instincts at shortstop, and Iove his internal clock. He does a really good job with his first-step reads and he creates pretty good angles for himself.”
Saylor also complimented Charles’ work ethic and resiliency for a young player.
Charles Has Captivating Raw Power
At 6-foot-6, with very long arms, Charles will have to learn to adjust to off-speed pitches. But with the proper plate work and development, Saylor believes they can get Charles to work a specific zone.
“Because he has that natural strength. He has the potential to be a guy who can possibly mishit balls and still hit them really, really, really far …. He’s just continuing to know where his swing plays, and just the small adaptations that are needed to different shapes in the strike zone.
“The most exciting part for me is just the curiosity and the energy he brings to the ballpark every day. It’s infectious,” Saylor added.
Charles hopes to follow in the footsteps of other tall shortstops like rising Pirates star Oneil Cruz, who stands 6-foot-7.
Royals have accumulated some nice pieces for the future, including second baseman Samad Taylor, whom Charles could team with to form a nice duo down the line.
The last two years have been a whirlwind for Rangers No.8 prospect and the 2022 MLB Draft No.3 overall pick Kumar Rocker.
The former Vanderbilt Commodores star became the first pitcher to toss a no-hitter in the Super Regional round of the 2019 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. He also would go onto win both of his starts in the College World Series, being named MOP of the tourney.
In many aspects he was either the No.1 or No.2 pitching prospect along with teammate Jack Leiter.
After being selected No.10 overall by the New York Mets in the 2021 MLB Draft, Rocker should have been on top of the world, about to take the Big Apple by storm and join an already talented pitching staff.
The Mets did a complete about face and Mets decided against signing Rocker due to uncertainty about his health. Shoulder concerns put Rocker under the knife in September 2021, and it’s been a long rehab back. It didn’t take long for Rocker to move off the board in the 2022 MLB Draft.
The talented bro was selected No. 3 overall by the Texas Rangers, who are elated to bring a rare talent such as Rocker into its pitching-strapped organization.
Rocker Makes MLB Debut In Arizona Fall League: Taking It Slow
Rocker took the mound in the AFL on October 4th. While the burly, power-pitching phenom didn’t have the command and control he’s used to having, he still showed that bulldog grit he displayed during his illustrious college career.
The velocity on Rocker’s pitches were there and the command will come.
Rangers/ Saguaros catcher Cody Freeman was thoroughly impressed with Rocker, and he raved about his what he has in his arsenal.
“He looked really good. He was around the zone a little bit, but he got back in there and pounded it. He’s going to be something special.”
“He’s a strike thrower and he has some nasty stuff, as you could tell.”
Rocker has ace abilities and the Rangers are hoping he could one day be that for their staff.
Rocker Showed More Improvement In Second Start
After a promising first start, Rocker was even better in his second AFL appearance. This time tossing two innings, instead of one, Rocker was more locked in and the extra inning allowed him more opportunities to test out some of his other pitches.
He struck out two batters and walked two, the walks are all a product of rust, as he just missed the third called strike on one of the walks. His fastball hovered around 94-96 MPH and maxed out at 97.
This outing he dabbled with his change-up and his best pitch, which is his slider. The pitch he overwhelmed hitters with in the CWS and made MLB scouts salivate.
Following his performance Rocker told reporters this ….
“I was just in the zone more. The changeup was good, the slider was good. The fastball, I’m still getting the timing for that just to get everything synched up.”
Rocker says he has no expectations for his performance in the AFL. The MLBbro is just happy to be back on the mound. His minor setbacks have definitely given him an even deeper appreciation for the sport that’s provided him with so much opportunity.
“I’ve got no expectations for (the AFL). I just want to have a good time and keep winning ballgames with this team.”
Rocker is expected to take the mound four more times in the AFL, and his usage is also expected to ramp up a little more each time out.