The California League is where prospects tend to prove themselves. The pitching is spotty, and defense is sometimes optional, but top prospects shine in this environment. Mainly because they look different, the bat sounds different, and the command is present. Top 30 prospects Harry Ford, Tyler Locklear, Jonathan Clase, and Axel Sanchez are off to Everett, but the cupboard isn't bare in Modesto.
Modesto Nuts: Who leads the staff?
The honest answer is no one. All the starters have mid-rotation upside. Former third-rounder Michael Morales is the defacto ace because he repeats the level. He doesn't have elite command or an elite offspeed offering, but he does everything well. Think Chris Flexen here. The ERA is ugly (5.91), but Morales showed improvement throughout the season and has bought into the Mariners' analytic-heavy approach to pitching. Look for him to take a step forward this year with added fastball command.
Tyler Gough is an arm to watch. The Mariners coaxed the talented righty away from Oregon State with a 9th Round over-slot deal. Gough is a power pitcher who can touch 96 with a high-spin slider. He also flashes an above-average curveball that could become an elite pitch with some tweaking. There is a chance he pops in Modesto and gets a late-season call-up to Everett. Intriguing relief arms include Blake Townsend, Holden Laws, and Natanael Garabitos.
Modesto Nuts: Two elite bats in the lineup
Cole Young and Gabriel Gonzalez form a solid one-two punch in the middle of the Modesto lineup. The 19-year-old Young is a 'control and the zone' artist. He played the last 39 games in a Nuts uniform and flashed elite bat-to-ball skills (.367/.423/.940). The slick-fielding shortstop could follow Robert Perez Jr.'s lead and use a productive first half to finish 2023 in Everett.
Gabriel Gonzalez is a five-tool outfielder with a keen eye and effortless in-game power. He'll slot into the three-hole in the lineup, giving him plenty of RBI opportunities. Especially with speedster Bill Knight and Young slotted a top the Nuts lineup. Gonzalez is one of the more intriguing position player prospects in the system, who could gain acclaim in the Cal League.
This Modesto team is solid and packed with enough top talent and intriguing youngsters (Colin Davis, Curtis Washington) who will raise the floor. However, success will depend on who steps up on the bump. The odds are on Gough and Morales shining through the California smog.