Hitting Prospect Roundup: Zac Veen’s Early Bounceback

Here are some top prospects who have caught our eye lately after having gotten off to great starts to their 2024 season.

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 02, 2024: Zac Veen #73 of the Colorado Rockies bats during the seventh inning of a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 2, 2024 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll be doing a prospect roundup for pitchers and hitters. Offensively, there’s surely going to be more standouts from a week-to-week basis and I admittedly won’t be able to get to everyone. With that said, my goal with these is more to highlight the players whose weeks were most “noteworthy”.

The way I define “noteworthy” is relative. For example, Connor Norby is slashing .309/.377/.544 in Triple-A, but that was somewhat expected. Rather than this being a heat sheet of the best performers week to week, I wanted to clue you in on how has grabbed my attention and tell you why their recent trend is worth yours too.

Zac Veen – OF (Rockies Double-A)

I will preface with the fact that it is early, however I don’t think we have seen a stretch of even eight games where Veen has looked this good since 2022. Health seems to be a factor in this as Veen was banged up most of last year, eventually undergoing surgery on a fraying ligament in his left hand/wrist in June.

Once he was cleared, he played a handful of games in the Puerto Rican Winter League where he looked a lot like how he has looked through his first eight games this year: quicker, explosive and more efficient with his path.

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On top of his 11 hits in eight games, Veen has already exceeded his previous max exit velocity twice, with a pair of 110 mph batted balls. At 6-foot-4 with long levers, Veen naturally will have to fight some whiff concerns, which made the lack of impact even more concerning previously. Seeing Veen tap into more raw power than we have seen in previous years with a swing that is more under control is encouraging, but again, it’s early.

Jefferson Rojas – SS (Cubs High-A)

One of my favorite breakout prospects heading into the season, Rojas is off to a ridiculous start as one of the youngest players in High-A. Only 18 years old for another week, Rojas is hitting .325/.357/.525 through his first nine games.

A simple swing geared for line drives, Rojas’ feel for the barrel helped him make the leap to Low-A last year and has filled out a bit in addition to incorporating his lower half more effectively in his swing. While it may be too small of a sample to draw anything major from the underlying data, it’s hard to ignore an 80% contact rate when Rojas is hitting the ball harder than he did last year, something that stood out to me in his live at-bats during Spring Training.

Our No. 85 prospect heading into the season I previously had a 55 future on the hit tool. This trend as a teenager makes a plus hit tool well within reach with the above average future power grade looking even more attainable. I expect his stock to skyrocket soon.

Ralphy Velazquez – 1B (Guardians Low-A)

Velazquez was a first round selection by the Guardians in last year’s draft as some wondered whether the plan was to try him behind the dish or proactively move the 18-year-old to first base. The Guardians opted for the latter, as Velazquez has exclusively played first base and has not stopped mashing while doing so.

Standing at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Velazquez is already extremely powerful and blends that with an advanced swing for his age. He has already launched four homers through nine games along with four multi-hit games.

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The pull side pop is already flashing plus and Velazquez has a chance to be a well-rounded hitter as he refines his approach some. Without overreacting to a small sample, everything I am seeing mechanically screams this year’s Xavier Isaac.

Zyhir Hope – OF (Dodgers Low-A)

Another breakout favorite going into the year, Hope has been even better than I could have imagined. Aside from the fact that he has an OPS well over 1.000, the newly-turned 19-year-old is producing eye-popping exit velocities while hardly whiffing.

In just nine games, Hope has already produced nine batted balls 105 mph and above, including home runs of 112 and 113 mph. Pair that with an 83% contact rate through his 39 plate appearances and Hope has easily been the most impressive prospect from a data perspective in the early going this year.

The reason I gravitated towards Hope was the swing mechanics with visible power projection, however I had no idea that he had this kind of thump in the tank already. The cherry on top is Hope’s improved comfort in the outfield, showing off his plus arm and wheels. Barring a total 180, this is a guy I fully expect to be on our top 100 prospect update.

Aidan Miller – SS (Phillies Low-A)

The 27th overall selection in the 2023 Draft, Miller is physically mature at a sturdy 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and he has translated that into impact immediately as a pro. Loud pre-swing moves had me a bit concerned about how Miller would time things up against better arms, but he has emerged in 2024 with a much simpler operation and the results have followed.

His hands are higher and closer to his slot, his barrel tip is tempered and he starts his load earlier, moving more smoothly and controlled into his launch position. Tangible adjustments always make me more willing to buy into a small sample and that’s exactly what we have with Miller.

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He has picked up 10 hits in eight games, including a 430-foot bomb to dead-center and has yet to swing and miss through a fastball within the zone (83% overall contact rate). We may see Miller in High-A sooner rather than later.

Luke Keaschall – 2B (Twins High-A)

It was Keaschall’s feel to hit that made him a second round pick in last year’s draft and the contact skills were on display immediately as a pro. The 21-year-old made some swing tweaks of his own in addition to some added strength, getting into his back side more effectively (he previously was more in his quads) with his hands in a position where they are not getting buried too far behind him.

After posting a max exit velocity of 106 mph with metal last season, Keaschall already has a 109.3 mph home run to his name through just eight games in 2024. The feel to hit has still been there, walking as much as he has struck out thus far with good contact rates. Power is unlikely to ever be a selling point for Keaschall, but it takes pressure off of the hit tool when the impact is closer to average and he could be headed in that direction.

Josue Briceño – C (Tigers Low-A)

A 6-foot-4, 200 pound teenager, Briceño boasts an impressive feel to hit and intriguing power potential. A power-sapping Florida State League has negated the slug some for Briceño, but the exit velocities have been there.

In just nine games, Briceño already has produced 13 batted balls above 100 mph, including a home run at 109 mph. Pair the impact with a contact rate of 87% and there’s a lot to be excited about in this small sample.

There’s plenty more room for strength within his frame and his swing is extremely advanced for his age. While he features a big leg kick, his load is early, slow and controlled, consistently on time and putting himself in position to get his A swing off with impressive adjustability to still get a good B swing off.

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