Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood
We’ve reached the time of the year where things are really beginning to heat up. I’m not just talking about the temperature either. While it’s certainly nice to attend minor league games while it’s 70 degrees instead of 35 degrees, I was referring to all the promotions we’re seeing lately. Some to the Major Leagues while others are simply a small bump up from High Single-A to Double-A after a strong start to the season. But at the same time, we’re still not satisfied. All the prospect promotions we’ve had lately still isn’t enough when the hottest hitter on the planet is still in Triple-A.
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Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report
Yordan Alvarez Waiting Game
Many of you have probably asked yourself, “Why the bleep is Yordan Alvarez still in Triple-A?” It’s a fair question. There are a couple of reasons why, but part of it is Super Two. I’m not going to try and explain Super Two cause it’s a little convoluted, but here is a good article from a few years back that breaks it down. Basically, it’s in the Astros best interest to wait a little bit to bring Alvarez up. It’s not like they’re desperate for his production either, currently sitting 4th in runs scored, 3rd in home runs, and 1st in AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Oh yeah, they also have Kyle Tucker available and dominating in Triple-A as well.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) May 17, 2019
Two questions have been asked with regularity to me about Alvarez.
1. When will he be up?
Trying to figure out a specific super two date is always a nightmare, but usually the date is sometime in the middle of June. Expect Alvarez up sometime around then.
2. What can we expect from Alvarez in 2019 and long-term?
The short answer is a lot. While Alvarez is a sub-par defender and potentially a DH long-term, his offensive capabilities are enormous. With his plus hit tool and power, Alvarez has the tools to become a middle of the order force capable of hitting .300 or above with 30-plus home runs. If he can get in 250 or so at-bats in 2019, I’d expect in the vicinity of 15 home runs with a solid batting average above .280 or so.
Remain patient. Alvarez will be here before we know it. Likely in the next 2-3 weeks.
Brendan Rodgers Promoted to Rockies
The last in the most recent wave of prospect promotions last week was superstar middle infield prospect, Brendan Rodgers. Like I’ve said before, when a prospect of this caliber gets promoted to the Majors, it’s usually to play regularly. I need to add “Unless they play for the Rockies” to that last sentence moving forward. After playing in the first two games following his promotion, Rodgers found himself on the bench for the next two games before moving back into the starting lineup last night. Hopefully, he remains in the lineup moving forward after going 3/5 with a double and an RBI last night, but this is the Rockies so who knows.
With an above-average hit tool and plus raw power, the future is very bright for Rodgers with the potential to hit for both power and a high average. He still needs to be owned to see how this playing time situation shakes out, but just keep expectations in check for this season. The Rockies strike again.
McKay on the Rise
While a lot of attention has been on the Detroit duo and others, Brendan McKay has quietly been carving up minor league lineups in Double-A. Through his first eight starts, McKay has dominated to the tune of a 1.30 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and 13.4 K/9. With four above-average or better pitches and plus control/command, McKay should continue to quickly move through the Rays system with a 2019 Major League debut very possible. McKay as a hitter is still a work in progress, but McKay on the mound is a thing of beauty. He’s quickly developed into one of the top 10 pitching prospects in the game and the 3rd best southpaw behind MacKenzie Gore and Jesus Luzardo.
The first few months of the season have been a whirlwind for top pitching prospects. Chris Paddack and Mike Soroka have been dominating in the Majors, Forrest Whitley has been struggling, Mize dominating, and Luzardo mending. All of this has created a very interesting conversation of who the top pitching prospect in baseball is. For the last year and a half or so, most, including myself, have given that title to Whitley. Now it’s a much more contested battle. Here are my top five prospect arms as of now.
1. Casey Mize (RHP – DET): Mize has everything you could ever want in a pitcher. His arsenal contains three plus pitches that he can command incredibly well, he misses bats, barely walks anyone, and has the makeup and mentality of an ace. He has the highest combination of ceiling and floor which has vaulted him into the top spot for me.
Casey Mize tonight. 🔥🔥💪 💪
6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 89 P, 62 S
FB: Sitting 94-96 w/ run, T 97.
Slider: 85-87, hard 2-plane tilt.
Splitter: 83-87, filthy fade & drop.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 21, 2019
2. Forrest Whitley (RHP – HOU): Yes, the struggles are a tad concerning, but in no way change my long-term outlook on Whitley. He possesses four above-average to plus-plus offerings with enormous strikeout upside. While his floor isn’t quite as high as Mize’s, you could argue Whitley has a higher ceiling due to his strikeout upside.
3. MacKenzie Gore (LHP – SD): If Mize wasn’t around, we’d likely be talking about MacKenzie Gore challenging for the title of best pitching prospect in the minors. With the potential for four plus pitches, high strikeout upside, and maturity beyond his years, Gore has top of the rotation starter written all over him. He very well could be the top prospect arm within the next 6-12 months.
4. Jesus Luzardo (LHP – OAK): Luzardo has yet to make his 2019 debut, but don’t let that deter you in any way. With three plus pitches and good command, Luzardo has one of the highest ceiling/floor combinations in the minors and should be up with Oakland later this summer.
5. Matt Manning (RHP – DET): Each and every season, Matt Manning just keeps getting better. He already has two easy plus pitches in his mid-90’s fastball and 79-81 mph hammer curve, and if he can be more consistent with his changeup (Which has plus movement), Manning could have three plus pitches to attack hitters with.
Matt Manning with back to back changeups at 89 & 88 mph. Hasn't been commanding it consistently, but you can see the fade and drop on it. If Manning can be more consistent with his CH command, this could be a 3rd plus pitch for him.#MLB #MiLB #MotorOn pic.twitter.com/xTqeQc6Mtr
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 21, 2019
Carter Stewart to Play in Japan
Last June, the Atlanta Braves selected right-hander Carter Stewart 8th overall, but failed to sign him after health concerns which led them to offer a well below-value bonus for the slot. Instead of signing, Carter played JuCO ball this season and was expected to be drafted in the first two rounds of the 2019 draft. That is, until he agreed to terms on a six-year contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League. The deal will pay him a little over $1 million per season and allow him to become a MLB free agent when he’s 25.
While this is a surprising move, it makes some sense for Stewart as this is much more money than he would’ve made in the minors and through a couple years of arbitration. It will be interesting to see if this opens the door for other prospects to do the same thing.
Other Prospect Notes
Jesus Luzardo (LHP): Arguably the top left-hander in the minors is nearing a return to action. Jesus Luzardo is set to face live batters this weekend and could return to Triple-A action within the next two weeks.
Seth Beer (OF – HOU): There was a promotion of a top prospect in the Houston Astros system last week. No, it obviously wasn’t Alvarez or Tucker, but rather Seth Beer getting bumped up to Double-A. Beer hit .328 with nine homers in 35 games before the promotion and is off to a .381 start with a dinger in his first six Double-A games. The 28th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft, Beer will likely be one of the first hitters from this draft class to reach the Majors, with a debut early next season likely.
Nico Hoerner (SS – CHC): The Chicago Cubs will be without their top prospect for the next 4-6 weeks after a CT scan showed a hairline fracture in his left wrist. The injury was originally thought to just be a bruise until the CT scan showed the hairline fracture. Hoerner was hitting .300 with eight extra-base hits in 18 games for Double-A Tennessee. Don’t expect him back until early to mid-July.
Kyle Tucker (OF – HOU): We’ve all been focusing on Yordan Alvarez lately with the tear he’s been on, but Kyle Tucker has been nearly as impressive over the last 30 days, hitting .330 with 10 home runs and six steals in 94 at-bats. With Alvarez’s path to playing time likely 1B/DH, Tucker remains the next man up if there’s a need for an outfielder and could be a big impact player down the stretch, both at the plate and on the bases.
Luis Arraez (INF – MIN): With a few hitters on the IL, the Twins called up infielder Luis Arraez to provide some depth in the upcoming weeks. While Arraez has displayed a plus hit tool and advanced plate approach in the minors, hitting .331 with a 7.7% walk rate and 8.5% strikeout rate, his minimal power and speed limits his overall upside. Due to his multi-position eligibility, he’s a decent AL-Only target, but can be left on the wire in standard mixed leagues.
Prospect Spotlight: Matthew Liberatore (LHP – TB)
Last week, I discussed Rangers right-hander Cole Winn in this spot, my favorite arm from the 2018 FYPD not named Casey Mize. If anyone can challenge Winn for my favorite non-Mize arm from this draft class, it’s Matthew Liberatore. After being drafted 16th overall last June, Liberatore was quickly assigned to rookie ball where he made eight starts in the Gulf Coast League and one in the Appalachian League. The results were promising with a combined 1.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, and 10.2 K/9 in 32.2 innings of work.
After throwing 93 combined innings between high school and the minors last season, the Rays delayed his 2019 debut until mid-May to keep his innings in check. Liberatore made his Single-A Midwest League debut on 5/15, firing five shutout innings and has only allowed one earned run through his first two starts of the season.
Liberatore’s arsenal goes four pitches deep with all four pitches projecting as above-average or better offerings. His fastball sits consistently in the low-90s with arm side run and can add a tick or two into the mid-90’s at times, though not consistently. Out of his three secondary pitches, Liberatore’s curve is the best of the bunch. He’ll throw it in the low to mid-70’s with huge break that generates plenty of weak contact and is his best out pitch right now. His changeup is nearly as impressive with fade and tumble in the low-80’s. Rounding things out is a newly added slider that is already flashing plus potential.
While he’s still only 19 and less than 12 months removed from pitching in high school, Liberatore is a very advanced and polished arm that has the chance to move fairly quickly through the minors thanks to his deep arsenal, solid command, and feel for pitching. The overall package leads me to project him as a future strong #2 starter with strong ratios and more than a strikeout per inning.
Sleeper Prospect Spotlight: Jasseel De La Cruz (RHP – ATL)
While a lot of the attention has been on the top arms in this Atlanta system, Jaseel De La Cruz has been making noise in the low minors this season and recently was promoted to Mississippi in the Double-A Southern League. In eight combined starts (four at each level) between the South Atlantic League (A) and Florida State League (A+), De La Cruz has a 2.15 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and 9.4 K/9 in 46.0 innings. Included in that was a no-hitter in his last start on 5/18. His performance so far in 2019 has been more than deserving of a promotion to Double-A.
The Braves signed De La Cruz back in 2015 and originally used him mostly as a reliever with 22 of his first 25 appearances coming out of the pen. The transition to the rotation happened in 2017 and JDLC has shown steady improvement ever since, especially with his secondary offerings. De La Cruz sits in the mid-90’s with riding life on his fastball and will offset that with a plus, sharp slider with two-plane break, and an improving changeup that has flashed above-average potential. Command has always been an issue for De La Cruz throughout his minor league career, but he’s shown better command and control this season so far.
If he can continue to make strides there and improve his changeup, there’s some high strikeout mid-rotation upside here with De La Cruz. He’s a name to add now while his price is still fairly low.
Prospects Gone Wild
This spot will highlight some top prospect performances and trends throughout the season.
Hitters (Last 10 Days)
Pitchers (Last 30 Days)
Prospect Power Rankings
Prospects currently in the minors that can make the biggest 2019 impact. This is a combination of ETA and potential 2019 impact.
- Yordan Alvarez, OF, HOU | Last: 1
- Nate Lowe, 1B, TB | Last: 3
- Carter Kieboom, SS/2B, WAS | Last: 4
- Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU | Last: 5
- Cavan Biggio, 2B/OF, TOR | Last: 6
- Luis Urias, 2B, SD | Last: 8
- Monte Harrison, OF, MIA | Last: 10
- Kevin Cron, 1B/3B, ARI | Last: NR
- Ryan Mountcastle, SS, BAL | Last: NR
- Bo Bichette, SS, TOR | Last: 9
Called Up: Brendan Rodgers, Austin Riley.
- Dylan Cease, RHP, CHW | Last: 1
- Zac Gallen, RHP, MIA | Last: 2
- Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT | Last: 3
- Logan Allen, LHP, SD | Last: 6
- Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU | Last: 4
- Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK | Last: 5
- Brendan McKay, LHP, TB | Last: NR
- A.J. Puk, LHP, OAK | Last: 8
- Casey Mize, RHP, DET | Last: 9
- Matt Manning, RHP, DET | Last: 10
Called Up: Touki Toussaint
Photo/Video Credit: Emily Waldon (Liberatore Video), Minor League Baseball.
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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