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Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Royal Flush

The first month of the season has come and gone quicker than a Patrick Corbin fastball getting creamed out of the yard. We’ve had an exciting last week or so in the prospect world with some notable promotions, a few demotions, and plenty of noteworthy performances.

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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report

MJ Melendez Called Up, Pratto or Pasquantino Soon?

With Cam Gallagher being put on the IL with a hamstring strain, Kansas City decided to call up MJ Melendez to take the open spot on the roster. While Melendez is a catcher on the 40-man roster, which fits the need, he was struggling mightily in Triple-A this season. In 95 plate appearances, Melendez was slashing a measly .173/.295/.296 with a 71.8% contact rate and only two home runs. This comes after a massive bounceback and breakout season in 2021 when he cranked a whopping 41.

There’s no doubting that Melendez has plus or better power, but the hit tool is still a question for me. Outside of his .288 average in 2021, Melendez has hit .262 or below in every other season and has a career .237 AVG in the minors overall. I’m not sure that he’s more than a .250 hitter in the Majors, albeit, with the potential to hit 25 homers annually. He’s likely going to play 4-5 times a week between catcher and DH, so he’s worth a look in deeper leagues, but the combination of playing time and his performance struggles in Triple-A limit him to 14+ team leagues right now.

In addition to Gallagher landing on the IL, Carlos Santana has joined him, which brings plenty of speculation that one of Nick Pratto or Vinnie Pasquantino could be up soon as well. Neither were called up when Santana was put on the IL, but that call could come any day now. Pasquantino is the superior hitter and performing better in Triple-A, but Pratto has the better glove and has had more time in Triple-A. I’d rather stash Vinnie P, but my gut says Pratto is up first.

Minnesota Brings Up Jose Miranda

We were all hoping Jose Miranda was going to be in the opening day lineup, but the beginning of May isn’t a bad consolation prize. Miranda wasn’t exactly dominating in Triple-A with a .256/.295/.442 slash line, but I’m a full believer in his bat and what we saw in 2021. Is he going to replicate 2021’s dominance every year? No, of course not. But Miranda has proven to be an above-average hitter with above-average power as well with .270+/20+ upside. And while that might not be a sexy profile for fantasy, it’s certainly valuable from someone that will also likely have multi-positional eligibility as well.

If Miranda ended up in the same range as Ryan McMahon or Luis Urias, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. And thanks to him being able to play three positions in the infield (1B, 2B, 3B), Miranda should stay in the lineup regularly as long as he’s performing at the plate.

Juan Yepez Makes Debut

It’s been a good week for prospect callups in baseball with Juan Yepez being the latest big-name prospect to get the call. Yepez was another breakout performer in 2021 when he slashed .286/.383/.586 with 29 doubles and 27 home runs in 431 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A. That momentum carried over into an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League as well where he was one of the top hitters in the entire league. Yepez was off to a hot start this season as well with nine homers in 93 Triple-A plate appearances before getting the call to St. Louis.

As with Miranda above, Yepez doesn’t bring any speed to the table, but his bat is legit with plus raw power and at least an average hit tool to go along with a solid approach at the plate, Longterm, I can see Yepez settling in as a .260+/25+ hitter as a corner outfielder or first baseman, which is where he’s spent most of his time in the minors with some third base sprinkled in as well. However, I’m not sure we see Yepez playing every day for St. Louis. He’ll likely steal some time from Dylan Carlson and maybe at DH as well, but there’s not a clear path to him playing 5-6 times a week. For that reason, as was the case with Melendez, I’m only looking at him in 14-team leagues or deeper and not in 12-teamers quite yet.

Blake Walston to Double-A

In the midst of all the MLB promotions above, the Arizona Diamondbacks promoted Blake Walston to Double-A after a hot start to the 2022 campaign. In four starts for Hi-A Hillsboro, Walston posted a 2.55 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.6% walk rate, and a 37% strikeout rate across 17.2 innings. Walson has been missing bats at a high clip with that 37% strikeout rate and a 15.9% SwStr rate, and has been able to induce groundballs at a near 50% clip.

Walston will work with a four-pitch mix, headlined by his low to mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball which is his best pitch. He’ll also mix in a serviceable slider and a changeup that has the chance to be an above-average Major League changeup. If he can keep the walks in check, Walston has #3 starter upside and the stuff to post a strikeout rate in the 26-28% range. He’s still a bit underrated as well, so it’s definitely worth trying to acquire him in dynasty leagues right now.

Live Looks: Brayan Bello (RHP – BOS)

Without question, the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system right now is Brayan Bello. The 6’1 Dominican right-hander has pitched very well this season in three starts for Double-A Portland, posting a 2.35 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 39.3% strikeout rate. That stretch includes an impressive outing on Saturday that I was able to be at. Bello allowed two earned runs over 5.1 innings with two walks and six strikeouts, including against Binghamton’s big-3 of Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty, and Ronny Mauricio.

Bello sat 94-96 with his fastball, topping out at 97 with decent riding life. He wasn’t afraid to attack hitters up or down in the zone with it and showed average to slightly above-average command of the offering. Offsetting that was a mid to upper-80s changeup and low to mid-80s slider, both of which were able to miss bats in this outing. Bello’s changeup was more impressive, recording nine whiffs and accounting for four of Bello’s six strikeouts in this outing.

Overall, I’d grade Bello’s fastball as 60, changeup as 60, and slider as 55. He demonstrated average to slightly above-average command and control in this outing as well. Bello projects as a good mid-rotation arm in my eyes with solid fantasy upside given his ability to miss bats at a high clip.

Live Looks: Jose Butto (RHP – NYM)

There’s been a fair amount of hype surrounding Jose Butto over the last year or so given his success last season and early in 2022. In 20 starts last season between Hi-A and Double-A, Butto posted a 3.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a 21.2 K-BB% across 98 innings and has followed that up with a 2.82 ERA through his first five starts this season. Included in that was 5.1 shutout innings in the start I attended. But despite the line, I came away underwhelmed with Butto.

Butto sat 90-92 in this outing with his fastball, topping out at 93 with minimal life. He was able to command the fastball well enough, especially in the upper quadrants, but this just screams 50-grade to me. Out of his two secondary offerings, the changeup was much more impressive. Butto threw it in the 78-80 range and would use it in all counts to both right-handed and left-handed batters. It was his main out pitch and featured plenty of depth with some fading action as well. Easily a plus offering. Butto’s curveball had good 11-5 shape, but the command of the pitch was wildly inconsistent. Further command gains could push the pitch to 50 or a tick above, but it’s a 45 for me right now.

Overall, Butto profiles as a back-end rotation arm in my eyes, but that’s about it. His above-average command and control gives him a decent floor to work with, but the upside just isn’t that lofty.

Other Live Looks – Mets

Francisco Alvarez (C – NYM): Two things immediately stand out when watching Francisco Alvarez; his aggression and power. This is a hitter that likes to hunt fastballs early in the count and can usually do damage, but if you get him behind in the count, there’s some swing and miss to his game. Alvarez has top-10 fantasy catcher upside, but I see him more as a .250-.260 hitter with 25 homers.

Brett Baty (3B – NYM): Different season, same old Brett Baty. In the four games I was at during this series, Baty was lining the ball all over the field with three balls having an exit velocity of 109 mph or higher. He was also aggressive and chased several pitches outside the strike zone. My opinion of Baty hasn’t changed. He’s an above-average hitter that will crank out a ton of doubles, but his free-swinging ways will keep the average suppressed in the .260-.275 range, which is still good. Unless he begins driving the ball in the air more consistently, I don’t see him eclipsing 25 homers.

Ronny Mauricio (SS – NYM): My only real note after seeing Mauricio is that he really struggles against good changeups. Brayan Bello made him look foolish for most of that start on changeups, including three straight to strike Mauricio out to end his outing.

Other Live Looks – Red Sox

Chris Murphy (LHP – BOS): Murphy was solid in this outing, mixing four pitches with his fastball sitting 92-94 and topping out at 96. All three secondaries can miss bats and Murphy displays above-average command and control. The upside isn’t overly high here, but I can see Murphy as a solid back-end rotation arm.

Jay Groome (LHP – BOS): Groome’s start was over shortly after it started. After getting the leadoff hitter to fly out to right, Groome allowed a single to Francisco Alvarez, hit Brett Baty, gave up a single to Ronny Mauricio, and then walked the next two batters before being pulled. Groome was in the 92-94 range while mixing in a couple of curveballs and changeups, none of which looked good at all. This was too small of a sample to really say much, but I’ve watched a fair amount of video on Groome and I’ve just never been overly impressed. Others I’ve spoken too feel the same way. Groome might be able to crack the rotation as a back-end arm, but I’m no longer seeing any reason to use the term “mid-rotation” when describing his future potential.

Prospects to Stash in Redraft (Stats Over Last 10 Days)

1. Max Meyer (SP – MIA): 11.2 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 13 K

2. Nolan Gorman (2B – STL): 10/33, 2 2B, 4 HR, SB, 3/14 BB/K

3. Adley Rutschman (C – BAL): 7/17, 4 2B, 2/1 BB/K

4. Edward Cabrera (SP – MIA): 8 IP, 2 ER, 7 BB, 9 K

5. Oneil Cruz (SS – PIT): 4/33, 2B, HR, 2 SB, 4/14 BB/K

6. Bryson Stott (SS/3B – PHI): 7/27, 2 2B, 3B, HR, SB, 2/9 BB/K

7. Roansy Contreras (SP – PIT): 6.1 IP, ER, 5 BB, 10 K

8. Triston Casas (1B – BOS): 9/30, 2 2B, HR, 6/9 BB/K

9. Riley Greene (OF – DET): Injured

10. Grayson Rodriguez (SP – BAL): 7.1 IP, 8 ER, 3 BB, 10 K

11. Alek Thomas (OF – ARI): 8/28, 2 2B, HR, SB, 6/4 BB/K

12. Brennen Davis (OF – CHC): 4/24, 2/11 BB/K

HM (Hitters): Jarren Duran (OF – BOS), Miguel Vargas (3B – LAD), Gabriel Moreno (C – TOR), Oswald Peraza (SS – NYY), Royce Lewis (SS/3B – MIN), Vinnie Pasquantino (1B – KCR), Nick Pratto (1B – KCR), George Valera (OF – CLE), Michael Busch (2B – LAD)

HM (Pitchers): George Kirby (SP – SEA), Bobby Miller (SP – LAD), Luis Gil (SP – NYY), Cade Cavalli (SP – WAS), Caleb Killian (SP – CHC), Matthew Liberatore (SP – STL), Cole Winn (SP – TEX), Ryan Pepiot (SP – LAD)

Media Credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire, MLB Pipeline

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