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Cactus League Spring Breakout Showcases Cape League’s Best

03/28/2024 5:30 PM

Article By: Adam Greene

Just as the Grapefruit League had a great showing in MLB’s inaugural Spring Breakout series, the Cactus League also had six successful games in which Cape Cod Baseball League alumni stood out as top prospects. Unlike the weekend in Florida, Arizona’s Spring Breakout features were heavily impacted by weather, with the two Chicago teams, the Cubs and White Sox, matchups being cancelled as well as the Bay area’s head-to-head between the Giants and A’s.

However, there was still a full slate of Breakout games taking place across the state, beginning with the Reds and Rangers prospects kicking off the action.
The first home run of Spring Breakout was crushed on a 2-1 count by Reds’ prospect Cam Collier (Cotuit ‘22). The two-run blast would set the tone for the rest of the Cactus League action, and this was quickly followed by an onslaught of offense for the Reds. Jacob Hurtubise (Orleans ‘19/Harwich ‘19) contributed with a base hit, as did Ethan O’Donnell (Harwich ‘22) drawing a HBP.
On the bump, Rangers’ pitcher Izack Tiger’s (Falmouth ‘23) fastball velocity looked great, and he struck out two in his inning of work. Tiger is one of the few drafted the same year he competed in the Cape League, and he’s had a nice start to his season with the Rangers’ Complex League squad.
Fast forward two days and the next three Cactus League Breakout games were held, the first between the Dodgers and the Angels. A duo of Cape League alumni in Nick Jones (Cotuit ‘19) and Camden Minacci (Falmouth ’22) appeared for the Halos. Jones was brought in to end an inning and retired the sole batter he faced, while Minacci pitched a full inning and recorded three swinging strikeouts.
Taking the mound for the Dodgers for the first two innings was Justin Wrobleski (Falmouth ‘19). He struck out four of the seven batters he faced, to shut out the Angels. He was later named to the Spring Breakout All First Team. Incidentally, Patrick Copen (Brewster ‘22) would follow Wrobleski later in the game and pitched the same line; one hit in two innings of work, striking out four.
In the Dodgers’ lineup, Dalton Rushing (Bourne ‘21) hit third. In his first at bat, Rushing drew a walk, and singled in his next at bat; he would score on a subsequent home run. Alex Freeland (Brewster ‘21/’22) played third base for the Dodgers, and he drove in a run on a sacrifice fly as well as reached on a single up the middle. Jake Gelof (Harwich ‘22) began the game as the designated hitter for their club, too.
Like the Cardinals in the Grapefruit League, the Reds had two games as a result of the odd number of teams. They would take the field against the Guardians, with this game at home in Goodyear. This time around Mat Nelson (Falmouth ‘19) got the start behind the plate for the Reds. In his first at bat, he singled in a run to open the scoring. Cade Hunter (Y-D ‘21) then doubled in the second inning, driving in another run to re-take the lead for the Reds.
In their first game, the Reds used only three pitchers, but they didn’t stretch anyone out in this one, with six pitchers appearing. Starting, Ryan Cardona (Brewster ‘21) tossed two innings. He gave up a home run in the second, but didn’t allow anyone else on base. Simon Miller (Hyannis ‘23) came in to record the final out in the top of the seventh, striking out the only batter he faced.
Guardians’ outfielder Chase DeLauter (Orleans ‘21) has flown up prospect rankings as of late, and after drawing a walk in his last at bat, he immediately stole second base. The team will be looking for a big 2024 season from him. Andrew Walters (Wareham ‘21) pitched the last frame, striking out the side. Catching for him was Cooper Ingle (Chatham ‘22) who caught all seven innings for the Guardians.
The final matchup of the Cactus League’s Saturday slate was a highly anticipated matchup in Scottsdale, played between the two Salt River Fields spring tenants in the Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Rockies gave each of the seven innings to different pitchers, and three of them were former Cape League players. Sean Sullivan (Harwich ‘22), Zach Agnos (Bourne ‘21), and Seth Halvorsen (Hyannis ‘21) each threw an inning. Sullivan and Agnos recorded clean frames with two strikes outs each, while Halvorsen allowed one free pass and run, but got out of the inning with some help from his defense. The Snakes gave Conor Grammes (Brewster ‘18) the fifth inning, and he recovered from an early walk, and a runner on third, with two strikeouts to end the inning, retaining their one run lead at the time.
The Rockies lineup was littered with alum. While it was a relatively slow day at the plate for them, multiple prospects inside their top fifteen started. Hunter Goodman (Hyannis ‘19) played first, Jordan Beck (Harwich ‘21) got the start in center, and Ryan Ritter (Cotuit ‘21/’22) manned shortstop. Cole Carrigg (Y-D ‘22) and Kyle Karros (Cotuit ‘22) both came into the game as pinch hitters, too.
The opposing Diamondbacks had Gino Groover (Harwich ‘22) starting at first, and he had one of the best offensive days with two singles, one of them off the bat at an exit velocity of105 mph. Top prospect Tommy Troy (Wareham ‘21/Cotuit ‘22) took over at shortstop in the fourth inning, Jack Hurley (Bourne ‘22) did the same in left field the following inning.
The last regularly scheduled Spring Breakout game would occur the next day between the Brewers and Royals. Making the start for the Royals was Mason Barnett (Brewster ‘21), and he went one and two thirds innings. He allowed a few walks but kept the game in-hand only allowing one earned run. The Brewers would hold a 3-1 lead until Brett Wichrowski (Orleans ‘21/Wareham ‘23) entered the game for them. He pitched well, but a fielding mishap and a couple of inherited runners allowed the Royals to tie the game. Wichrowski got out of the inning with a strikeout followed by a double play.
The Brewers lineup contained two of their top prospects from the Cape, Brock Wilken (Harwich ‘21/’22) and Eric Brown Jr. (Cotuit ‘21). Brown Jr. drew a walk in his first plate appearance with the bases loaded, earning him an RBI. Wilken was 0-2 at the plate with a walk, but looks primed to make the big league squad at some point in 2024.
There was no shortage of alumni in the Royals lineup. Five of the starting nine spent time on the Cape, and all of them rank inside their organization's top twenty prospects. Slotted two-three-four in their lineup were Tyler Gentry (Brewster ‘19), Gavin Cross (Brewster ‘21), and Cayden Wallace (Bourne ‘21). Wallace had the best day at the plate of the three, with two base hits and a walk. Trevor Werner (Brewster ‘22/’23) blasted a solo shot in the fourth which got the Royals on the board. Carson Roccaforte (Bourne ‘22) rounded out the lineup, starting in center.
The final Spring Breakout game took place a week after all others, due to a rain postponement and the Padres trip to Seoul for the opening series of the year. They’d square up with the Mariners in what was definitely the highest scoring, offense heavy Breakout game across MLB. The only Cape League pitchers to appear were Logan Evans (Bourne ‘23) and Peyton Alford (Harwich ‘17/Brewster ‘19) for the Mariners. Evans looked great in the first, retiring all three batters via strikeout, but exited the next inning after some command trouble. Alford threw a clean third inning, getting two hitters to whiff for strikeouts.
The 13-10 barnburner saw eighteen hits through the seven inning showcase, and many of those came from Cape alum. For the Friars, Marcos Castañon (Brewster ‘19) drove in three runs, two of which came on a double scorched to left, and the other on a sac fly. Nathan Martorella (Cotuit ‘21) put a ball on the berm for a three-run homer that gave the Padres a seven run lead. Homer Bush Jr. (Y-D ‘22) got on base twice in four plate appearances.
The Mariners came away with the loss, but had solid hitting performances from Tyler Locklear (Orleans ‘21) and Ryan Bliss (Brewster ‘19). Locklear singled to spark a run for the Mariners, and Bliss recorded an RBI in all three of his at bats, on a walk, groundout, and double. As a pinch hitter, Ben Williamson (Hyannis ‘23) singled twice.
Although two games were rained out, the rosters of the participating teams featured top CCBL alumni. From the Cubs, Matt Shaw (Bourne ‘22) and Brody McCullough (Hyannis ‘22) were set to face off against their cross-town rival. The White Sox team included Brooks Baldwin (Cotuit ‘21/’22) and Adam Hackenberg (Hyannis ‘21). The Giants and A’s games was also canceled, but that game would have showcased Joe Whitman (Cotuit ‘22/’23) and Maui Ahuna (Falmouth ‘22) from the Giants, as well as Brady Basso (Brewster ‘18) and Will Simpson (Brewster ‘21) from the A’s.
The Cactus League featured a great slate of Spring Breakout games that further cemented the Cape Cod Baseball League as a breeding ground for incredible talent. The future is bright for the current Cape League alumni in the pros, as well as the players that will next come through collegiate baseball’s premier summer league.