Less than a year removed from being selected first overall by the Detroit Tigers, right-handed pitcher Casey Mize increased his already considerable prospect cachet on Monday when he tossed a no-hitter in his debut with Double-A Erie.
Mize, who authored a 0.35 ERA in the Florida State League prior to his promotion, needed just 98 pitches to navigate his no-no, striking out seven while issuing only one walk and flashing both the stuff and polish that compelled the Tigers to use the No. 1 overall pick on a college pitcher for the first time since 2013. He's only allowed seven hits in five starts this season, striking out 32 while allowing one walk and one hit batter.
Monday's performance was a veritable coming-out party, and it won't be the last of 2019 for the game's best young prospects.
Let's take a look at five other minor-league talents who are, like Mize, still in the incipient stages of their development but are nevertheless worth paying attention to this year. These players could become household names even before they step between the lines in the big leagues. (Note: Stats are through Monday's games.)
Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
A switch-hitting shortstop with plus tools across the board, Franco commanded a $3.825-million signing bonus back in 2017. That money may well end up being one of the Rays' best-ever investments in the international market.
Coming into 2019, Franco was ranked no lower than 13th on any of the canonical prospect lists after being named MVP of the Rookie-level Appalachian League in his first professional season. And through 20 games in the Low-A Midwest League this year, the 18-year-old has done nothing to dissuade those evaluators, slashing .311/.393/.568 with 11 extra-base hits, four stolen bases, and more walks than strikeouts.
Franco, it should be noted, is the youngest player in the Midwest League. He could be up in Double-A by season's end, with a chance to make his MLB debut in 2020.
Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Pearson was limited to just 1 2/3 innings in 2018 after a comebacker broke his arm during his season debut, but he's rebounded with aplomb. The 2017 first-round pick, who flashed triple-digit velocity during his stint in the Arizona Fall League, has completely overpowered the High-A Florida State League so far in 2019, crafting a 0.95 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP through six starts with a league-leading 44.1 percent strikeout rate and a no-less-preposterous 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
At 22, and with "one of the absolute best arms in the minors," as Baseball Prospectus recently put it, Pearson isn't long for Dunedin, and should soon be promoted to the Double-A Eastern League where Mize just landed. It's even conceivable that he'll debut with Toronto this year. The developmental blueprint of former top Blue Jays prospect Daniel Norris - who started the 2014 campaign in the Florida State League at 21 and finished it in Toronto - could be dusted off for the 6-foot-6 right-hander.
Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Madrigal's profile is highly irregular for a former top-five draft pick. He's undersized (listed at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds), probably won't play on the left side of the infield, and has an almost anachronistic lack of oomph in his swing (he's yet to homer as a pro). Still, the Oregon State product was widely considered the best pure hitter in last year's draft class, and both his bat-to-ball skills and his on-base acumen have very much been on display in his nascent professional career.
Through 64 games split across three levels of the lower minors, the 22-year-old has struck out in just 3.4 percent of his 266 plate appearances, putting up a .298 average and a .361 on-base percentage. Currently, Madrigal has walked more than twice as often as he's struck out in the High-A Carolina League, where he's put up a .288/.376/.375 line through 21 games.
A promotion to Double-A could come around midseason, and Madrigal will likely make his debut in Chicago early next year, if not sooner. Even if the power never arrives, Madrigal's knack for hard contact, along with his plus speed and defensive chops, will make him a big leaguer.
Alec Bohm, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Following an uninspired first 40 games as a pro in 2018, Bohm has started living up to his pedigree this season, and last year's third overall pick will, in all likelihood, soon bore of the Low-A South Atlantic League. As a polished college hitter, Bohm is older and more experienced than his average competition, and it shows. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Omaha native has hit .367/.441/.595 with three homers, nine doubles, and a 0.86 walk-to-strikeout rate in 22 games thus far.
Questions remain about whether he'll stick at third base long term - he's now getting semi-regular reps at first base with Lakewood - but Bohm's above-average hitting ability and power should get him to Double-A by year's end, regardless, and he could be vying for a spot in the Phillies' infield by the middle of 2020.
Nolan Gorman, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Few minor leaguers can wallop a baseball as ruthlessly as Gorman, who boasts 60-grade power - some scouts have even given it a 70 grade on the 20-80 scale - and became the Cardinals' second-best prospect (behind only Alex Reyes) shortly after they nabbed him with the 19th pick in last year's draft.
As auspicious as his 2018 season was in the lowest levels of the minors, the 18-year-old has been even more impressive in 2019, posting a 1.039 OPS with six homers in 21 games in his return to the Midwest League, where he's still more than two years younger than his average opponent.
Strikeouts are a problem for Gorman, who's also a below-average runner and merely an adequate third baseman, but his offensive ceiling is very high. He'll take a while to develop - even the best high school hitters can flounder in their first tour of the upper levels of the minors - but Gorman has the tools to become the Cardinals' best homegrown hitter since Matt Carpenter.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.