Hitting Prospects on the Rise for Dynasty Leagues: American League
In the blink of an eye, the minor league season is more than half over. Where the bleep has the time gone? Wasn’t it just mid-May? Prospects breaking out and rising up rankings happens each and every season but this year it seems to be happening more frequently than in years past. That’s likely due to the weirdness of 2020 and how developments for prospects got shaken up a bit. We’ve seen so many prospects skyrocket up rankings this season, I can’t fit all my favorites into one article. So, I’m going to split this up into four parts beginning with some of my favorite American League hitting prospects on the rise that I’m trying to acquire heavily in dynasty leagues.
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Hitting Prospects On The Rise – American League
Josh Lowe (OF – TBR)
Going into the season, I think it’s fair to say that most prospect rankers were too low on Josh Lowe, myself 100% included. I liked the profile a decent amount, but was waiting for him to showcase better contact skills and take a step forward with his power. Well, guess what? Both of those have happened here in 2021. The Rays saw the talent that Lowe possessed when they took him 13th overall back in 2016, and while it’s taken a bit longer to all come together, the overall package is quite enticing for fantasy purposes.
Through his first 61 games in Triple-A Durham, Lowe has slashed .279/.355/.549 with 17 doubles, 14 home runs, and 15 steals in 259 plate appearances. Lowe has yet to be caught on a stolen base attempt too. Lowe had always displayed above-average to plus raw power to pair with his plus speed, but his “spray line drives all over the field” approach limited his in-game power a bit. But as he began driving the ball in the air more consistently in 2018 and 2019, the power ticked up in games as well. Funny how that tends to happen.
Lowe now projects as a bonafide 20/20 threat with the potential for a little more in each department. The hit tool still lags behind a bit, but Lowe has shown the ability to draw walks at a solid clip and at least has the contact skills to hit .260 or so, maybe a bit higher. Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan remain the crown jewels of this system, but I strongly believe that Lowe is going to really surprise some people with how valuable of a fantasy asset he becomes. After ranking 92nd in my overall rankings to start the season, Lowe is now pushing the top-30 and will likely crack it very soon if this level of production contines. He’s one of the more underrated top-100 dynasty prospects around.
Tyler Soderstrom (C – OAK)
Man, do I love me some Tyler Soderstrom. One of the top bats in the 2020 MLB draft has acted the part through his first three months as a professional. In 59 Low-A games, Soderstrom is slashing .306/.390/.568 with 20 doubles and 12 home runs in 258 plate appearances. While I wasn’t expecting Soderstrom to excel like this out of the gate as a 19-year-old in Low-A, this performance doesn’t surprise me at all either.
Coming out of the California prep ranks, Soderstrom projected to have a potent bat with the potential to grade as plus in both power and hit tool. So far, he’s done nothing to deter that notion. Not only is Soderstrom hitting for a high average and showing the ability to use the entire field, but he’s also shown a solid plate approach with a 10.6% walk rate and 24.0% strikeout rate. His plus raw power is already consistently translating to game power as well, largely due to his plus bat speed and ability to drive the ball in the air consistently.
A dozen will do it.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 24, 2021
Coming into the season, Soderstrom ranked just outside my top-100 overall. Now, he’s pushing my top-20. That’s how potent his bat is currently and has the ability to be moving forward. This is a .280+/25+ bat in the making with enough speed and athleticism to add a handful of steals annually as well. You don’t need to worry about catching suppressing his playing time and offensive output either. Although Soderstrom has started mostly at catcher this season, he projects to move out from behind the plate, likely to first base, due to the presence of Sean Murphy. Wherever he ends up in the field, he has the skills to develop into a role 60 player, maybe even role 70, and a top-10 fantasy first baseman. Go get him before his price tag fully catches up to his value/performance.
Pedro Leon (OF – HOU)
We switch from a 2020 draftee in Soderstrom to a 2020 international signee in Pedro Leon. Well, technically it was 2021. Damn covid. Anyway. Leon was one of the more intriguing prospects available in 2020/21 FYPDs for fantasy leagues due to his power/speed blend. However, the hit tool and approach were questioned and it’s always hard to project how the international signings will transition to the minor leagues. So far, Leon has come as advertised, but showing an even better power/speed blend than anticipated. Through his first 56 games, Leon has racked up nine home runs and 14 steals with a .252/.363/.441 slash line between Double-A and Triple-A.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 23, 2021
As impressive as that power/speed pace is, Leon has shown his warts at the plate with his batted ball profile and swing and miss tendencies. Leon currently has a 30.9% strikeout rate along with a near 50% groundball rate and a pull rate above 60%. More advanced pitchers will pick that pull-happy approach apart with secondaries on the outer half or outside the zone unless Leon shows that he can lay off of them. But at the same time, he’s shown more patience than expected with an 11.8% walk rate which is encouraging. On top of that, he’s gotten better every single month. Strike that, exponentially better.
Leon is far from a finished product, but the power/speed blend and improvements at the plate have him shooting up rankings right now and we should see him debut by early-2022.
Gabriel Moreno (C – TOR)
Without question, one of the biggest risers of the 2021 season has been Gabriel Moreno. All the 21-year-old Venezuela backstop has done since entering the minor leagues is rake. That hasn’t changed here in 21 as one of the youngest players at the Double-A level. In 32 games, Moreno has slashed .373/.441/.651 with nine doubles and eight home runs along with a 9.7% walk rate and 15.2% strikeout rate. And for his minor league career, Moreno has a .308/.358/.501 slash line and 24 home runs in 186 games. The only thing that has slowed him down at all is a fractured thumb that has kept him out of action for the last month.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 6, 2021
This performance from Moreno has vaulted him inside my top-100 overall dynasty prospects. For a catcher to be within my top-100, they have to possess considerable offensive upside for fantasy. Moreno checks off all of those boxes. First and foremost, Moreno boasts a plus hit tool with the ability to drive the ball to all fields while keeping his strikeouts in check. His barrel control and bat speed are exceptional, and the raw power has steadily ticked up over time as well. While he doesn’t possess Adley Rutschman upside, Moreno projects as a 60-hit, 55-power catcher with the ability to pump out some .280/20 type of seasons. Don’t let his position scare you off. This could be a top-5 fantasy catcher within the next few years.
Anthony Volpe (SS – NYY)
Is every Yankees middle infield prospect breaking out this season? Sure seems like it. I’ve already discussed Oswald Peraza a bunch this season so let’s turn our attention to a player one level below him in Anthony Volpe. The 2019 first-round pick out of Morristown, New Jersey has taken the minor leagues by storm this season, and has looked even better than Oswald Peraza has.
Volpe started in Low-A, dominated there for two months, and hasn’t cooled off at all in his first 10 games in High-A. Overall, Volpe has accumulated 14 home runs and 21 steals with a gorgeous .307/.448/.622 slash line across 306 plate appearances. Just as impressive at that stat line is the fact that he has more walks (56) than strikeouts (54) this season. That equates to an 18.3% walk rate and 17.7% strikeout rate. Highly impressive numbers across the board for Mr. Volpe so far this season.
As I’m writing this, Volpe just smacked his third High-A home run and 15th overall this season. Nothing is stopping Volpe right now.
Despite these numbers, I feel the need to pour some cold water here. Well, maybe cool and not cold. The 21 steals are a bit deceiving given the quality of Low-A catchers and the new rules they’re trying out at the level that limit a pitcher’s movements on the mound towards first base. Stolen base numbers at the level have been way up this season, so take them with a grain of salt. With that said, Volpe does possess above-average speed and I’d consider his raw power to be above-average at this point as well. That power/speed blend pairs with a plus hit tool that Volpe has shown consistently this season, both in his contact skills and plate approach. Volpe is easily a top-100 dynasty prospect right now and could push top-50 overall before too long.
Angel Martinez (2B/SS – CLE)
With all the talented infielders in Cleveland’s system, Angel Martinez has flown relatively under the radar. But that’s all changing here in 2021. In 57 games for Low-A Lynchburg, Martinez has slashed a solid .279/.348/.452 with 15 doubles, five home runs, and nine steals with a 9.4% walk rate and 21.3% strikeout rate. Those numbers are impressive but are hardly comparable to the numbers listed above with the previous players mentioned here. So why is Martinez trending up so much? It’s his all-around offensive skillset.
While no one tool sticks out in Martinez’s profile, he projects to be above-average across the board in the hit tool, speed, and power departments. Some might even say his speed is plus right now. At the plate, he’s displayed above-average bat speed and really has a knack for barreling pitches up to all fields. Martinez currently sports a whopping 32.9% line-drive rate this season. For reference, the current MLB leader in line-drive rate is Adam Frazier at 30.7%. With the ability to hit for a good average and 15+/20 upside from a middle infield position, the arrow next to Martinez’s name is trending up in a hurry.
Four More On The Rise To Target
Luisangel Acuña (2B/SS – TEX)
People will get excited due to his last name, but the skill set here warrants excitement too. Luisangel Acuña is off to a solid start to the 2021 season, slashing .272/.364/.407 with six home runs and 25 steals in 66 games. That high walk rate we saw from Acuña in 2019 has remained here in 2021 as well with a 12.0% walk rate to go with a 24.4% strikeout rate. Acuña is known for his potential above-average to plus hit tool and plus speed which he’s flashed as a pro, and the power is slowly ticking up as well. Even if he’s just a 10-15 HR type, that will play nicely with the AVG/OBP/SB upside that he possesses. He could be top-50 by the end of the season.
Jose Miranda (2B/3B – MIN)
Jose Miranda literally hasn’t stopped hitting all season. After slashing .345/.408/.588 with 13 homers and four steals in 47 Double-A games, he’s continued that assault on Triple-a pitching with a .323/.389/.625 slash line and 15 extra-base hits (8 doubles, 7 home runs) in 23 games. Miranda wasn’t ranked highly anywhere to open the season but now finds himself pushing the top-100 overall on many industry lists, mine included. But as good as he’s been, I wouldn’t go overboard to try and acquire him. Miranda projects as a role 50 player in my eyes with .270/20 potential. A very solid bat that has skyrocketed up rankings this season, but not necessarily a star in the making.
Edouard Julien (3B – MIN)
Sticking in the Minnesota Twins organization, Edouard Julien has impressed so far in 2021. The 22-year-old Canadian recently earned a promotion from Low-A to High-A and it’s easy to see why. In 47 Low-A games, Julien slashed .299/.490/.456 with three home runs, 21 steals, and a ridiculous 24.5% walk rate. His average has dropped to .205 in 22 High-A games but the power has ticked up and he’s still walking 20% of the time. This is more of a deep-league dynasty addition but Julien’s OBP skills and above-average speed give him some appeal, especially if he can maintain a solid hit tool and develop his power stroke.
Curtis Mead (1B/3B – TBR)
Another under-the-radar prospect due to the organization that he’s in, Curtis Mead has put the prospect world on notice this season. The corner infielder from Australia has racked up nine home runs and 10 steals in 62 games with an exquisite .341/.392/.552 slash line between Low-A Charleston and High-A Bowling Green. All as a 20-year-old with only 46 GCL games under his belt coming into 2021.
As with Miranda, I don’t think Mead is going to be a star, but he’s showing the ability to hit for average and power with above-average speed as well. Who knows how the Rays will handle him when he makes his way up that high in a couple of years, but this profile from a corner infielder is intriguing. And it’s not like Tampa Bay has anyone locked into either corner infield spot long-term. Mead is a prospect you can likely get for a very reasonable price in dynasty leagues.
Media Credit: MLB Pipeline, Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire
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