In my final installment of this four-part prospects on the rise series, I’ll be discussing nine hitting prospects in the National League that are quickly rising up my rankings this season. We’ll begin with a pair of top-20 assets, move onto some new top-100 prospects, and add some lower names as well. All of these prospects are ones I’m targeting heavily in dynasty leagues right now before their price tags continue to rise due to their performances and exciting skill sets.
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Hitting Prospects on the Rise in the National League
Hedbert Perez (OF – MIL) & Luis Matos (OF – SFG)
Originally, I wasn’t going to include any no-doubt top-100 prospects, but I did want to include this dynamic duo in some capacity. Due to their immense offensive potential and robust tools, both Hedbert Perez and Luis Matos have risen into my top-20 overall. It’s hard to look at each of these dynamic outfielders and not see star potential in their future.
Let’s start with the higher-ranked of the two for me (by just a few spots), Hedbert Perez of the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s really a shame that we had to wait an extra year for Perez to debut, but it’s been well worth the wait so far. In 22 games and 93 plate appearances, Perez has already racked up 13 extra-base hits, six home runs, and two steals with an impressive .326/.376/.616 slash line. I’ve been watching a ton of Perez footage from the ACL and I’ve been highly impressed by how he handles his business in the batter’s box. Perez remains balanced and in control, hunting out fastballs and sitting back on offspeed, and has already shown the ability to drive the ball with authority to all fields.
Hedbert Perez is just one off the ACL lead for home runs after his sixth blast of the season on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/xBwWuVvgF2
— Brewers Player Development (@BrewersPD) August 16, 2021
Reports last year out of the alt site were glowing and we’ve seen why over the last month or two. Perez combines above-average contact skills with plus raw power and at least above-average speed on the bases. There’s a bit of swing and miss to his game presently, but nothing concerning that can’t be cleaned up as he matures. Still only 18, Perez already has star upside written all over him and it likely won’t be long until he’s a universal top-10m dynasty prospect. This is your last chance to get him at a non-top-10 prospect price tag.
Luis Matos went 3 for 5 with a HR (101mph EV) and two 1B’s (102, 100) vs Inland Empire pic.twitter.com/gWC0ZY1BS9
— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) July 29, 2021
As for Matos, the 19-year-old Venezuelan outfielder has been tearing up Lo-A ball this season. In 81 games, Matos has slashed .327/.364/.507 with 26 doubles, 11 home runs, and 18 steals (4 CS). He hasn’t been walking much (4.9%), but that’s not a detriment to his performance when there are plus contact skills and a low strikeout rate (12.9%) to go along with it. Matos’ potential plus hit tool, bat speed, and plus foot speed are his calling cards right now, but it’s been the development of his power that has really taken him to new heights. Even if Matos is just a 50-power bat longterm, adding that to 60-hit and 60-speed could allow him to blossom into a fantasy star.
Reginald Preciado (SS/3B- CHC)
The Chicago Cubs have completely retooled their farm system over the last 12 months or so. Many of the prospects they received in the various return packages are high upside bats in the lower levels like Reginald Preciado, whom they got in the Yu Darvish deal with the San Diego Padres. Signed by the Padres back in 2019, Preciado has immense potential and has already been flashing that potential in the ACL this season. In his first 26 games, Preciado is slashing an impressive .370/.420/.537 slash line with 12 extra-base hits (2 HR) and seven steals. He’s also posted a respectable 21.8% strikeout rate and 7.6% walk rate thus far.
While Preciado is already impressing at the plate, there’s projection for so much more here. At 6’4/185, Preciado has plenty of room on his frame to add more muscle bulk which could really take his already above-average to plus raw power to new heights. As he adds that bulk, the tradeoff usually means a decrease in speed, but with Preciado’s foot speed and athleticism, average speed should still be attainable in the long run.
Regardless of whether he sticks at short or slides over to the hot corner, Preciado’s potent bat could make him an impact offensive talent at either position capable of 55-hit, 60+ power, and 50-speed long term. He’s a great target in dynasty leagues now as I have a feeling his price tag is only going to soar from this moment on.
Owen Caissie (OF – CHC)
Another Cubs position prospect firmly on the rise is Canadian outfielder, Owen Caissie. A 2nd round selection in 2020, Caissie was one of my favorite bats in the entire class. Caissie is listed a 6’4/190 with plenty of projection left on his frame and has already shown easy plus or better raw power. With his frame, raw power, and left-handed swing that generates natural loft, it’s easy to dream on Joey Gallo comps already with Caissie. Those are lofty and maybe a bit unfair for a 19-year-old just getting his first taste of professional baseball, but that’s how good Caissie has the potential to be.
So far in the ACL, Caissie has been mashing. In 27 games and 116 plate appearances, Caissie has six home runs and six doubles with a stellar .352/.491/.637 slash line and 20.7% walk rate. There’s been some swing and miss to Caissie’s game (26.7%), but it’s nothing that is overly concerning me at the moment. Caissie has shown above-average to plus bat speed with quick hands and could wind up as a 70-grade raw power bat once he adds more bulk to his frame. He’s also shown average or better contact skills and can move well on the bases as well. However, that power is his calling card and could make him a middle-of-the-order bat down the road. The time is now to buy in dynasty leagues.
Elly De La Cruz (SS/3B – CIN)
The name Elly De La Cruz has been taking the prospect world by storm over the last month or so. It’s not hard to see why when watching him at the plate either. De La Cruz just oozes projection. Baseball-Reference has him listed at 6’2/150, but there’s no way he’s still only 6’2 or 150 pounds. I’d bet money that he’s at least 6’3 or 6’4 now and 165+ pounds. Whatever he actually is, De La Cruz has plenty of room left on his frame and is already showcasing his raw strength and athleticism at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field as well.
De La Cruz made his presence felt basically immediately this season with a five-hit performance in his third game on 7/3 and 10 hits combined in a three-game stretch from 7/3-7/5. From that point on he hasn’t looked back and currently sits with a .320/.360/.647 slash line to go along with 13 doubles, eight triples, seven home runs, and six steals in 37 games. The approach can be a bit aggressive (5.5 BB%, 27.4 K%), but De La Cruz has shown good contact skills and exceptional bat speed from both sides of the plate and has plenty of time to make improvements to that approach.
Currently playing around 2/3 of the time at the hot corner, I believe that’s where De La Cruz ends up, especially as his big frame continues to fill out. However, him sticking at shortstop shouldn’t be ruled out with the agility and athleticism he’s shown. Even if his frame slows him to a 45/50 runner longterm, De La Cruz’s potential with the bat is tantalizing with 55-hit, 60+ power upside and 70-grade raw power isn’t out of the question either. Get ready to see him as a top-100 prospect (or higher) in the not-too-distant future.
Kevin Alcantara (OF – CHC)
Hey look, another Chicago Cubs prospect on the rise. What a shock. As Chris Clegg and I mentioned on this week’s Fantrax Toolshed, this Cubs system has acquired a ton of high-upside hitting prospects in various trades over the last 12 months and Kevin Alcantara is another example of that. Signed by the Yankees in 2018 and traded to Chicago in the Anthony Rizzo deal, Alcantara brings an exciting blend of tools with a projectable 6’6 frame and plenty of athleticism. Even though he’s 6’6, Alcantara has displayed enough speed and athleticism to remain in center field longterm, which could help him move up the ladder as the Cubs have a lot of corner outfield types like Caissie, Brennen Davis, and Alexander Canario. Although, He’ll have to deal with 2020 1st rounder Pete Crow Armstrong for that CF gig.
As mentioned, Alcantara is a listed 6’6/188 and brings an above-average power/speed blend to the table. He hasn’t shown a ton of his raw power in game settings yet with five home runs in 58 career games but does have four in 17 games this season, including three in nine games since the trade with a .350/.420/.617 slash line overall. Long-term, Alcantara has the power to be a 25+ homer bat. The raw power is already potentially plus and could tick even higher once he fills out his frame. He’ll need to add more loft to his swing too which is fairly linear at the moment. This is a prospect to dream on with 60-power, 50+ speed upside if the hit tool allows.
Jose Salas (SS – MIA)
Moving over to the NL East, Jose Salas has been a prospect that’s intrigued me ever since Miami signed him back in 2019 for $2.8 million out of Venezuela. Salas was actually born and raised in Florida so transitioning back to baseball in the United States has probably been a bit easier than most international signings. Really everything you’ve seen and heard about Salas, even through the 2020 pandemic, has been positive, and he’s starting off his pro career in style. In 26 games thus far in the Florida Complex League, Salas is slashing .368/.461/.506 with nine doubles, a home run, and eight steals in 13 attempts.
17 year old #Marlins SS/2B Jose Salas could have one of the highest ceilings in the organization.
Projectable frame with smooth actions from both sides of the plate. Quiet hands with present bat speed. All fields approach w/ raw power ticking up. Plus tools in field and run pic.twitter.com/D8Rk4up0S3
— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) November 29, 2020
A switch-hitter, Salas has demonstrated solid contact skills from both sides of the plate with the ability to drive the ball to all fields. There’s not a ton of in-game power presently, but with Salas’ raw power, bat speed, and physical projection, dreaming on 25-homer seasons down the road is an easy thing to do. Salas is also an above-average to plus runner that hasn’t been afraid to run, although, he’s going to need to read pitchers better and improve his efficiency stealing bases.
While Salas might not wind up with any standout tools. the potential for above-average to plus tools across the board offensively with 20/20 upside makes him an extremely attractive prospect in dynasty leagues.
Ezequiel Tovar (SS – COL)
If you compared the stats of Ezequiel Tovar to Luis Matos’, they’d look very similar. Tovar isn’t quite the same level of talent that Matos is, but the 20-year-old Venezuelan shortstop is plenty intriguing and flying up prospect rankings this season. Even with a lackluster nine games in Hi-A, Tovar is still slashing .294/.331/.478 with 23 doubles, 11 home runs, and 22 steals (6 CS) across 81 games and 368 plate appearances.
After signing and for his first two years in pro ball, Tovar was lauded as a defense-first shortstop that was plus in the field with a strong arm and offensive skills that lagged behind. Well, those offensive skills are beginning to catch up to the defense. As mentioned, he’s not quite on Matos’ level, but Tovar blends above-average contact skills with above-average speed and developing raw power. He’s likely going to be a tick behind Matos in all three, but his blossoming offensive game and strong defensive skills make him very valuable, both in real-life and dynasty leagues alike.
Tovar has now snuck into the back-end of my top-100 prospects and could realistically flirt with the top-50 within the next year if he continues showing offensive development.
Jairo Pomares (OF – SFG)
While everyone is gushing about Marco Luciano and Luis Matos, Jairo Pomares is quietly putting together a monster season in Lo-A. In 51 games so far, Pomares is slashing .372/.429/.693 with 22 doubles, 14 home runs, and a .321 ISO. With Pomares, it all comes down to the hit tool and power. He provides minimal speed despite being an average runner and doesn’t walk much (6.7% in 2021, 5.7% career), but Pomares has a knack for putting the ball in play and driving pitches in the air with regularity.
Giants 2 | Nuts 5
Jairo Pomares absolutely crushes a solo shot to cut the Modesto lead!
114 mph off the bat, 414 feet 🤯 pic.twitter.com/PT29PvVkJI
— San Jose Giants (@SJGiants) August 13, 2021
Pomares has trimmed his groundball rate this season while raising both his fly-ball rate and line-drive rate which explains the uptick in game power. Due to the lower speed output, Pomares doesn’t quite match the upside of the other prospects on this list, but he does have a chance to develop into a .275/25 bat in time.
Other NL Hitting Prospects On The Rise
Adael Amador (SS – COL), Averson Arteaga (SS – SFG), Jesse Franklin V (OF – ATL), Joshua Mears (OF – SDP), Diego Cartaya (C – LAD), Jose Ramos (OF – LAD), Mark Vientos (3B – NYM), Joe Gray Jr. (OF – MIL), Andy Pages (OF – LAD), Jeferson Quero (C – MIL), Elehuris Montero (1B/3B – COL), Euribiel Angeles (INF – SDP), Deyvison De Los Santos (3B – ARI)
Media Credit: Brewers Player Development, SFG Prospects, Joe Drake/Prospects Live, Ian Smith, San Jose Giants
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