This has been a hectic year for pitching prospects, even more than usual. Many of the top pitching prospects entering the season have faltered while others barely on the radar have vaulted up rankings. A big part of being successful in dynasty leagues is noticing these trends quickly and making the appropriate moves sooner rather than later. With so many pitching prospects on the rise right now (mostly in the NL), I wanted to discuss several in the American League (NL coming soon) that I’m targeting in dynasty leagues right now before their values rise even more than they already have.
American League Hitting Prospects on the Rise
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AL Pitching Prospects On The Rise
Daniel Espino (RHP – CLE)
As I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago, if I ranked the top-5 pitching prospects strictly on their ceiling, Daniel Espino would be in that five. The 20-year-old right-hander from Panama has been showcasing that lofty upside all season in Low-A and High-A, even if all his stats don’t blow you away. Currently, Espino sits with a 4.30 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 11.9% walk rate, and 37.9% strikeout rate. One of those four stats is highly impressive while the other three aren’t. But it’s not the stats that have Espino moving up my rankings and others as well, it’s his filthy arsenal.
#Indians 20yr old RHP Daniel Espino off to a terrific start tonight striking out the side in order in the 1st inning for Lake county topping out at 100 mph on the gun.@Daniel24Espino @LCCaptains #OurCLE pic.twitter.com/Cv4ELVSVDt
— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) July 30, 2021
Espino’s arsenal has allowed him to miss bats at a high clip all season, especially since moving to High-A where he has a ridiculous 43.2% strikeout rate. He’s been clocked in triple-digits many times this season and generally sits in the mid to upper-90s with explosive life through the top of the zone. This is easily a plus fastball and could settle in as 70-grade if Espino’s command of it ticks up over time. And as impressive as his fastball is, his secondaries are nearly as impressive. Espino mixes in a sharp mid-80’s slider, mid-70’s curve, and mid to upper-80’s changeup. The slider is definitely a plus offering, and both the curve and changeup flash above-average or better in any given outing.
All Espino needs to do is improve his command and control to develop into a frontline starting pitcher at the highest level. And him being in the Cleveland organization gives me plenty of confidence that his command/control profile will improve over time.
Cole Winn (RHP – TEX)
After the 2018 MLB draft, my #2 pitcher for fantasy FYPDs behind Casey Mize was California prep right-hander, Cole Winn. And while it’s taken a bit longer than expected, Winn is finally showing why he was regarded so highly coming out of that draft. Winn battled command and control issues throughout 2019 and 2020 at the alt site, but has really turned the corner here in 2021. In 15 Double-A starts spanning 66.0 innings, Winn has recorded a 2.59 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 9.2% walk rate, and 32.9% strikeout rate. Winn has made great strides with both his command and control, to the point where I feel okay slapping a 50-grade on each.
Rangers No. 3 prospect Cole Winn was nasty on the hill for @RidersBaseball.
🔹8 K pic.twitter.com/VOAI3gTBx0
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 7, 2021
Winn’s dynamic arsenal has made Double-A hitters feel really uncomfortable in the box this season. In addition to his 32.9% strikeout rate, opposing batters are hitting just .135 off of Winn this season. He’s dominated with a mid-90’s plus fastball that can tough higher, a big plus curve in the low-80’s, and a changeup and slider that both flash above-average. Winn sequences his pitches well and knows how to change speeds and eye levels to keep hitters off balance. I’d still like to see a bit more improvement in the control department, but Winn is on his way to developing into a #2 caliber rotation arm and a top-50 dynasty prospect.
Taj Bradley (RHP – TBR)
Since being drafted in the 5th round back in 2018, all Taj Bradley has done has steadily improved every year. That is especially true here in 2021. In 71.2 innings this season, Bradley has excelled to the tune of a 1.63 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 8.2 BB%, and 31.7 K%. His dominance in Low-A earned him a recent promotion to High-A where he went five innings allowing two hits, two walks, and zero earned runs while striking out four in his debut at the level. Due to all the talent in this Tampa Bay system, Bradley has flown a bit under the radar in dynasty leagues. But that’s all coming to an end with how he’s dealing in 2021.
Taj Bradley was downright unhittable over five innings for the @ChasRiverDogs.
The #Rays' No. 17 prospect struck out eight. pic.twitter.com/iVMipWnVFj
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 30, 2021
Bradley features two plus pitches in his mid to upper-90s fastball and mid to upper-80’s slider, and has also shown an average changeup at times as well. Although, his changeup is well behind the fastball and slider, and still needs refinement. Both Bradley’s fastball and slider miss plenty of bats and can carve up a lineup on any given night. What makes them even more effective is the fact that Bradley has shown above-average command of both offerings as well. If Bradley can continue refining his changeup into a 50+ offering to offset the FB/SL, he should find himself within many top-100 lists before too long.
Peyton Battenfield (RHP – CLE)
I may not be quite as high on Peyton Battenfield as my Fantrax Toolshed co-host, Chris Clegg, but Battenfield is certainly a name on the rise to target in dynasty leagues right now. After serving mostly as a reliever through college and in 2019 in the Houston organization, Tampa Bay moved him to the rotation this season. The move has worked magically so far. In 67.1 innings between High-A and Double-A, Battenfield has compiled a 2.09 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 4.3% walk rate, and 36.2% strikeout rate. That 31.9% K-BB% is stellar, regardless of level. It’s also one of the main reasons why Battenfield is so intriguing moving forward, especially in the infamous Cleveland pitching factory following a deadline deal. Call me a sucker for an elite K-BB%.
Tremendous organizational debut tonight by #Indians 23yr old RHP prospect Peyton Battenfield for (AA) Akron. Battenfield was up to 96 touching 97 mph on the night vs Altoona.
Line – 6.0(IP) 3H 1R 1ER 0BB 6SO (73 Pitches 50 Strikes)@PBattenfield @AkronRubberDuck #OurCLE pic.twitter.com/FcGgb7a9nU
— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) August 8, 2021
Battenfield will attack hitters with a four-pitch mix featuring a low to mid-90’s fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup. None of the four project as plus offerings all are average to above-average offerings that are aided by his plus command and control. This is the type of pitcher that Cleveland usually works their magic on. If they can get Battenfield’s stuff to tick up a bit as they have with countless pitchers before him, he could crack my top-100 before too long. His lack of prior prospect pedigree and slightly older age (24 tomorrow) will likely keep his dynasty value in check though. And that’s a beautiful thing for those of us looking to trade for him.
Logan T. Allen (LHP – CLE)
The younger and better Logan Allen in this system has enjoyed an impressive first professional season. In 72.2 innings between High-A and Double-A, Allen has posted a 2.11 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 6.7 BB%, and 31.6 K%. As with Battenfield above, Allen’s arsenal doesn’t blow anyone away, but his above-average to plus command and control gives him a solid floor to work with in arguably the best organization for pitching development.
That’s not to say that Allen doesn’t have good stuff. He does feature a plus changeup with plenty of fade and sink along with a curveball and low-90’s fastball, both of which are at least 50-grade offerings. I’d even say that his fastball is a 55-grade pitch given his command. The upside isn’t substantial here, but he’s certainly worth trying to trade for while his price tag is still likely pretty reasonable.
Six More AL Pitching Prospects On The Rise
Xzavion Curry (RHP – CLE), Brandon Williamson (LHP – SEA), Brayan Bello (RHP – BOS), Josh Winder (RHP – MIN), Ken Waldichuk (RHP – NYY), Glen Otto (RHP – TEX)
Media Credit: MLB Pipeline, Indians Prospective
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