Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Adley Rutschman Flying High in Bird Land
We’re still around a week and a half from that magical September 1st date that we all love so much, but some of the September fireworks are starting a little early. We’ve had a ton of prospect promotions over the last week with two of my top-50 prospects getting the call to the Majors and a plethora of minor league promotions, headlined by the Orioles promoting Adley Rutschman to the Single-A South Atlantic League.
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Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Adley Rutschman Flying High in Bird Land
Prospect Promotions (Minors)
Adley Rutschman (C – BAL)
What a 24-hour stretch for Adley Rutschman. Less than 24 hours actually. On the day after going 5/5 and finishing a double short of the cycle, the 2019 #1 overall pick has been promoted from the short-season Single-A New York-Penn League to the full-season Single-A South Atlantic League. That’s one way to reward your top pick after a damn good performance. The 5/5 game yesterday bumps Rutschman’s season line up to .297/.389/.462/.850 in 91 at-bats with seven doubles and two home runs. In addition, the strong plate approach he displayed during his collegiate career at Oregon State has continued with a 13.0% walk rate and a 16.7% strikeout rate.
Now, valuing catchers in always difficult, regardless of whether it’s for dynasty or real life. Backstops tend to develop more slowly due to the strenuous nature of the position and the wear and tear it takes on the body. That’s why, usually, people tend to stray from putting value in the position when building their prospect core in dynasty leagues. And usually, that’s not a bad idea. But when a catcher with the upside of an Adley Rutschman comes around, you need to alter that approach.
If you look at non-fantasy prospect lists, a lot of them have Adley Rutschman already in the top-10. I’m not gonna put up a stink about that either as Rutschman has the upside to become an all-star caliber catcher on both sides of the ball. His receiving skills and footwork behind the plate are sound and he’s displayed his plus throwing arm very regularly over the last few years. His defense alone will likely give Rutschman a long Major League career. The fact that he has a plus hit tool, sound plate approach, and plus raw power completes the profile and has him destined for multiple all-star appearances and potentially as the best catcher in the game within the next few seasons.
Don’t be afraid of Adley Rutschman in dynasty leagues. “Ohhhh, but he’s a catcher!” I don’t give a crap. This is the best catching prospect in the minors with the potential to hit around .300 with 30-plus home runs.
Dylan Carlson (OF – STL)
Very quietly, Dylan Carlon has blossomed into one of the elite outfield prospects in the game this season. Well, it was a rather quiet ascension at first. Not anymore. After three straight seasons hitting between .240 and .251, Carlson has broken out in 2019. The Cardinals assigned Carlson to Double-A Springfield to start the season, and after slashing .290/.373/.532/.905 with 55 extra-base hits, 22 home runs, and 18 steals in 438 at-bats at the level, bumped him up to Triple-A Memphis. The onslaught on minor league pitching has continued with Memphis with four extra-base hits and two homers through his first six games.
Where did that one land?
Dylan Carlson's 23rd homer of the season, and second in three days, is a towering shot that extends his multhit streak to five games with @memphisredbirds.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 21, 2019
The raw tools had always been there, but it took a little bit of time for Carlson to really put them all together and show them consistently in games. Carlson possesses an above-average hit tool and raw power and it at least an average runner capable of stolen base totals in the teens annually to pair with an average in the .270-.290 range and 25-plus home runs. With him now up in Triple-A, an early-2020 MLB debut could very likely be in the cards. Get it? Thank you, I’ll be here all week. But seriously, St. Louis does have Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neill, and Harrison Bader under contract for 2020, but with Carlson’s upside and pedigree, none of these guys will block him once St. Louis deems him ready.
Julio Rodriguez (OF – SEA)
Speaking of outfield prospects on the rise. While Carlson’s ascension was a quiet one up until 2019, Julio Rodriguez has been a favorite of prospect hounds since basically the moment he was signed. It’s easy to see why too. When looking at pure upside, Rodriguez is one of the most talented outfield prospects in the minors thanks to an above-average hit tool and easy plus raw power that is starting to show up more consistently in games this season. Through his first 263 at-bats of the season, J-Rod has amassed 20 doubles and 10 home runs with his average estimated fly ball distance climbing as the season progresses.
While his power is his calling card, Rodriguez has proven to be an advanced hitter for his age. He can use the whole field and has a good feel for the barrell. Not only does he have the power to hit 30-plus homers annually, but Rodriguez also has the hit tool to hit near .300 as well. An average runner at present, Rodriguez will likely lose a step as he matures physically, but still should be able to add a handful of stolen bases annually. Currently my #29 overall prospect, Rodriguez has the upside to rise into the top-10 in short order. Rodriguez will finish the season in Advanced Class-A after getting the bump up to the level late last week and will likely start there to open 2020 as well with a 2021 MLB ETA.
Nate Pearson (RHP – TOR)
Switching over to the pitching side of things, Nate Pearson is now one step closer to making his Major League debut. Outside of a few speed bumps, Pearson mostly dominated in his six starts with Class-A Advanced Dunedin and 16 starts with Double-A New Hampshire. Combined, the big right-hander had a 2.15 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and 11.2 K/9 in 83.2 innings. His first Triple-A start was more of the same as Pearson fired seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and walking none.
Pearson was on a strict workload restriction for the first half of the season, alternating two and five-inning starts, but that was lifted last month. Hopefully, all the injury woes are behind him and Pearson can come up early next season. His fastball/slider combination is filthy (Both 70-grade in my eyes) and could strike out over a batter per inning right now in the Majors. As long as he can keep his command in check and gain some consistency with his curve and changeup, Pearson has the upside to develop into a frontline Major League starter.
Prospect Promotions (Majors)
Jake Fraley (OF – SEA)
As I mentioned in the below video, the name Jake Fraley doesn’t quite carry the same level of buzz as a Bo Bichette, Yordan Alvarez, or Keston Hiura. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of value to be had here. After all, Fraley rose up into my top-50 (#49 overall) in my mid-season top-250 prospect rankings. In 382 minor league at-bats before his callup, Fraley was slashing .298/.365/.545/.910 with 51 extra-base hits, 19 home runs, and 22 steals (7 CS) between the Double-A Texas League and Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
One major reason for Fraley’s drastic rise up the rankings has been the development of his power. Fraley had shown his above-average to plus hit tool and speed throughout his minor league career, but the power had been lagging behind. Coming into the 2019 season, Fraley had just seven home runs in 540 at-bats since being drafted in 2016 and didn’t hit for much power during his collegiate career at Louisiana State either. And before you write it off as PCL-induced, 11 of Fraley’s 19 dingers came at the Double-A level.
Now that Fraley is hitting for power, his offensive profile has become more well-rounded and even more enticing for dynasty owners than it already was. This type of profile points to a future near the top of the order. Peak Fraley could be somewhere in the vicinity of a .280 hitter with 20 home runs and 25 stolen bases, making him a very enticing longterm option. For 2019, he’s worth a look in standard mixed leagues as long as he gets regular playing time. The Mariners left him on the bench last night but I expect them to give Fraley consistent playing time moving forward.
A.J. Puk (LHP – OAK)
It’s been a tough season for Oakland’s prized southpaw duo. Both A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo have basically been recovering from their own respective injuries for the entire season. Puk specifically, missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. In order to ease him back in, Puk has worked mostly out of the bullpen this season with 14 of his 18 appearances coming in relief. In total, Puk recorded a 4.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, and 13.5 K/9 across 25.1 innings of work.
This move makes a ton of sense for the Athletics. They’re locked in a tight three-team battle with Tampa Bay and Cleveland for the two wild-card spots and now can add a dynamic southpaw to an already solid bullpen that currently ranks 6th in the Majors in bullpen ERA. Though his command has been inconsistent throughout his minor league career, Puk fastball/slider combination is one of the best you’ll see, regardless of level. His fastball sits in the mid-90’s with run and can get into the upper-90’s at times, and Puk’s slider is a devastating mid-80’s offering with sharp two-plane tilt. Both Puk’s changeup and curveball are behind but each has flashed average to above-average potential inconsistently.
Even if he goes with a mostly fastball-slider approach, Puk could be a weapon for Oakland down the stretch, But unfortunately, as he won’t be starting, Puk’s value is limited to holds leagues of AL-Only formats. Long-term, I still look at Puk as a high strikeout #2 starter, but there’s a faint voice in the back of my mind that is whispering reliever with a Josh Hader type of impact. For now, I’m sticking with the starter projection and a damn good one at that.
Logan Webb (RHP- SF)
Staying on the west coast in the Bay area, we have Logan Webb of the San Francisco Giants. Webb, my #2 pitcher in the Giants system behind Sean Hjelle, was summoned over the weekend to make his Major League debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks and didn’t disappoint. In five innings of work, Webb allowed one run on five hits and one walk while striking out seven. Webb features a plus fastball in the low to mid-90’s, a plus slider in the low to mid 80’s with big break, and a changeup which is a distant third pitch for him right now. If he can develop that changeup into a consistent third offering, there’s #3 starter upside here with Webb. And for the rest of 2019, there’s some solid back-end value to be had with the Giants likely giving him some run down the stretch.
Nick Solak (2B/OF – TEX)
Here’s a sneaky-good ROS target for those of you in re-draft leagues. To put it simply, Nick Solak doesn’t nearly as much love in the prospect world as he should. All the guy has done in the minors is produce. At the time of his promotion to Texas, Solak had a career .850 OPS while maintaining a 23 homer, 18 steal pace per every 600 at-bats. He’s displayed an average to above-average hit tool, raw power, and speed throughout his minor league career, though, Solak hasn’t really run that much here in 2019. But what he’s lacked in speed, he’s more than made up for with a career-best 27 home runs.
With the ability to hit for average and power, Solak makes for an intriguing waiver wire target down the stretch, especially after Nomar Mazara went on the IL. if he starts running more, that’s just an added bonus. He started both games of yesterday’s doubleheader, going 2/8 with his first career home run.
Prospect Stash Rankings
No, these aren’t rankings of what prospect have the best mustaches. These are the prospects currently in the minors that can make the biggest 2019 impact. This is a combination of ETA and potential 2019 impact.
- Gavin Lux, 2B/SS, LAD | Last: 1
- Nate Lowe, 1B, TB | Last: 3
- Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU | Last: 4
- Carter Kieboom, SS/2B, WAS | Last: 5
- Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/3B, BAL | Last: 6
- Luis Robert, OF, CHW | Last: 10
- Drew Waters, OF, ATL | Last: 8
- Jo Adell, OF, LAA | Last: 2
- Willi Castro, SS, DET | Last: NR
- Sean Murphy, C, OAK | Last: NR
- Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL | Last: 1
- Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK | Last: 2
- Kyle Wright, RHP, ATL | Last: 3
- Brusdar Graterol, RHP, MIN | Last: 4
- Anthony Kay, LHP, NYM | Last: 6
Photo/Video Credit: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire, Minors Graphs by Prospects Live, MLB Pipeline via Memphis Redbirds, Robert Robinson.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and a contributor in the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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