Prospect Risers & Fallers From My Last Update: Infielders
Every single year, prospect risers and fallers and a major part of playing in dynasty leagues. Noticing these trends and acting quickly can make a big difference in the long run. No, one single move won’t make or break your dynasty teams, but being ahead of the curve more often than not is something to strive towards. Now, that’s not always easy, especially when you roster a player trending in the wrong direction. I get that. And here in 2021, prospect risers and fallers have been much more prominent than I can remember, largely due to having a lost minor league season in 2020 and not always knowing all the small things behind the scenes that we usually do in a normal season. We heard some of the behind-the-scenes action through various outlets and reports, but that was far from the whole picture.
Today, I’m going to discuss a dozen notable infield prospect risers and fallers this season that made waves in my latest top-400 overall rankings update.
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Notable Prospect Risers
MJ Melendez (C – KCR)
To say MJ Melendez has performed well this season is a massive understatement. The more accurate statement would be to say he’s going bonkers. In 102 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Melendez has cranked 18 doubles and a whopping 35 home runs with a .286/.380/.626 slash line. This is much more appealing than his .163/.260/.311 slash line back in 2019. Melendez has also shown an improved plate approach this season as well, improving his walk and strikeout rates to 13.4% and 21.4% respectively. That strikeout rate is a major improvement from his 39.4% mark back in 2019.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 4, 2021
It’s looking like Melendez is putting that 2019 season in the rearview. His plus or better power and improving hit tool/approach has his dynasty stock skyrocketing right now and he should force Kansas City’s hand at some point early next season. Where he plays in the field is the big question. Melendez is currently blocked behind the plate by Salvador Perez who is signed through at least 2025 with a 2026 team option. My guess is that Melendez becomes the backup catcher and primary DH with possibly some third base mixed in where he’s played a little this season.
Diego Cartaya (C – LAD)
Another catcher firmly on the rise is Diego Cartaya. Long viewed as a potential offensive standout, Cartaya has been consistently showcasing his abilities at the plate this season in his first taste of full-season ball. In 31 games, Cartaya is slashing .298/.409/.614 with 10 home runs, a 13.1% walk rate, and a 27.0% strikeout rate. Cartaya’s plus raw power and average or better hit tool from behind the plate make him very appealing in dynasty leagues, but he doesn’t exactly have a clear path to playing time. Will Smith has established himself as arguably the top catcher in baseball already and is under contract for several more years. Luckily, Cartaya is still 2-3 years away from the Majors, so this isn’t a time-sensitive issue. Ignore that for now and focus on the standout offensive abilities.
Nick Pratto (1B – KCR)
As with MJ Melendez above, Nick Pratto is having a major resurgence in 2021 after a disastrous 2019 season. After slashing .191/.278/.310 in 2019, Pratto has rebounded to .267/.390/.590 this season with 24 doubles, 28 home runs, and 11 steals in 461 plate appearances. In addition to his stellar defensive abilities, Pratto is reminding everyone that he’s an above-average offensive first baseman as well with an average hit tool, plus raw power, and a solid plate approach that can add a little speed as well. However, his strikeout rate consistently remaining above 25% is a concern and will likely keep his batting average in check long-term. With little in his way at the Major League level, Pratto should get a chance early in 2022.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 27, 2021
Dustin Harris (1B – TEX)
It’s not often that a player debuts in my top-400 as high as Dustin Harris did. But when you’re demolishing pitching like he has this season, it’s more than justified. In 101 games between Lo-A and Hi-A, Harris has combined to slash .323/.395/.535 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs, and 24 steals in 26 attempts. While he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves thanks to his power development, Harris has always performed well as a pro, hitting .306 in 2018 and .325 in 2019, albeit with little power.
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) July 22, 2021
This type of power/speed blend from a corner infielder is rare and makes Harris one of the top corner infield prospects in the game right now. He’s also continued to show a sound plate approach this season as he did before the pandemic as well. If you want to get Harris for a reasonable cost in dynasty leagues, you better act quickly as his stock is firmly on the rise.
Nick Yorke (2B – BOS)
While Jeter Downs has floundered this season at Triple-A, Nick Yorke has established himself as one of the top second base prospects in the game. Yorke was considered to be one of the best pure hitters in the 2020 draft class and now he’s beginning to showcase more power as well. In addition to his .333/.423/.515 slash line, Yorke has 17 doubles, 12 home runs, and 12 steals in 395 plate appearances. He’s also been caught nine times which will need to improve, but Yorke showing at least average power and speed to pair with his plus hit tool has certainly boosted his overall value. A 60-hit, 50-power, 50-speed second baseman with a high floor is one to target heavily in dynasty leagues, especially when he’ll get to call Fenway Park his home in a couple of years.
Nick Yorke is enjoying his time with the @GreenvilleDrive.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 29, 2021
Miguel Vargas (3B – LAD)
One of my favorite strategies in dynasty leagues has been to target the underappreciated prospects in good systems that get overshadowed by bigger names. Miguel Vargas fits that mold 110%. In 108 games between Hi-A and Double-A, Vargas is slashing .313/.378/.517 with 22 doubles, 21 home runs, and 10 stolen bases. Those that have followed Vargas for the last few years shouldn’t be overly surprised by this production. The Cuban third baseman hit .330 in 2018 and .308 in 2019, but only amassed nine home runs in 177 games. However, Vargas did rack up 38 doubles in 2019 and has always been given above-average raw power grades.
With some added bulk from 2019 and a higher fly-ball rate, that raw power is more consistently translating into game power. Vargas has now cemented himself as a top-100 prospect for me with an above-average hit tool, above-average power, low strikeout rate, and even a touch of speed. With Kody Hoese’s struggles this season, Vargas has now leapfrogged him as the heir apparent to Justin Turner at the hot corner in Los Angeles.
Eddys Leonard (SS/2B/3B – LAD)
No newcomer on this latest update ranked higher than Eddys Leonard. And surprise, surprise, he’s a Dodger. Leonard didn’t find himself on many top prospect lists before the season started, even ranking outside the top-30 on Dodger-Only lists. What a difference four months can make. The 20-year-old Dominican infielder has been tearing up the Single-A level this season, hitting for average and power in both Lo-A and Hi-A. Overall, Leonard has 21 home runs and seven steals in 95 games with a stellar .301/.404/.559 slash line. A .295/.399/.544 line in Lo-A put him on the map, but I wanted to see how he did at Hi-A before bumping him up my rankings aggressively.
Well, he’s been even better in Hi-A, slashing .315/.415/.595 with seven home runs in 29 games. Leonard doesn’t possess any standout tools, but we could be looking at a 55-hit, 55-power, 50-speed infielder that can play all around the infield. On top of that, he’s recorded a solid 11.4% walk rate and 23.5% strikeout rate this season. It’s time to give Leonard the ranking love that he deserves. And if this continues, he’ll be well within my top-100 by next spring.
Jhonkensy Noel (3B/1B – CLE)
Despite missing some time earlier in the season, Jhonkensy Noel has put on a spectacular performance all season when he hasn’t been hurt. In 59 games and 244 plate appearances, Noel is slashing a robust .357/.402/.621 with 12 doubles and 15 home runs. If you want to find something to gripe about, Noel’s walk rate is below-average at 5.3%, but he hasn’t been striking out much (19.3%) and has been displaying exceptional bat to ball skills and plus or better raw power as well.
Jhonkensy Noel leaves the yard twice.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 3, 2021
When you put the ball in play consistently with the amount of power that Noel has, you can get by with a lackluster walk rate. Noel is looking like a .275+/25+ type of bat that can slot into the middle of Cleveland’s lineup within the next two years or so. You can probably still acquire him for a reasonable pricetag as well in dynasty as I don’t believe his price has fully caught up to his value. That should change in a hurry though so act quickly.
Other Infield Prospect Risers
Victor Acosta (SS – SDP), Blaze Jordan (1B/3B – BOS), Jose Miranda (3B/2B – MIN), Bryson Stott (SS – PHI), Coby Mayo (3B – BAL), Angel Martinez (INF – CLE), Elly De La Cruz (SS/3B – CIN), Josh Smith (SS – TEX), Mark Vientos (3B – NYM), Ezequiel Duran (2B – TEX), Shea Langeliers (C – ATL), Elehuris Montero (3B – COL), Joe Perez (3B – HOU), Euribiel Angeles (INF – SDP), Vinnie Pasquantino (1B – KCR), Felix Valerio (2B – MIL), Juan Yepez (1B – STL)
Notable Prospect Fallers
Jeter Downs (2B – BOS)
This one stings a bit. As one of the main return pieces in the Mookie Betts trade, expectations were exceptionally high for Jeter Downs this season. And unfortunately, he hasn’t delivered. While Downs has racked up 11 home runs and 14 steals in 82 Triple-A games, those come with a paltry .177/.260/.310 slash line and 33.2% strikeout rate. In addition, Downs flyball and line-drive rates have also fallen this season. His upside as a 20/20 middle infielder with a favorable ballpark and lineup waiting for him in Boston keep Downs in the top-100 overall for me currently, but the contact and strikeout issues need to improve.
Ed Howard (SS – CHC)
Coming out of the 2020 MLB draft, many had Ed Howard ranked highly in FYPD rankings, myself included. Now, 70 games later, that Howard hype train has come to a screeching halt. Howard has only managed to muster a .217/.273/.307 slash line with four home runs and six steals in 290 plate appearances. On top of that, he’s stuck out an even 30% of the time while only posting a 5.9% walk rate.
This is a prospect I was really getting behind as a good all-around player that would turn into a fan favorite as the hometown kid. Now, I’m not so sure. There’s still above-average raw power in the tank with around average speed on the bases, but Howard’s hit tool and approach have not come as advertised. Not even close. He’s still young with only 70 games under his belt so don’t write him off yet, but the arrow is certainly pointing down here.
Robert Puason (SS – OAK)
As bad as the two names above have been this season, you could make a case that Robert Puason has been even worse. The soon-to-be 19-year-old Dominican shortstop has slashed .211/.279/.294 this season with a trio of home runs and steals to go along with a ridiculous 41.7% strikeout rate. His overall power/speed upside and inexperience as one of the few 18-year-olds in full-season ball keep him inside the top-200 for now, but the hit tool and approach are major concerns. Even before he signed, you’d see a lot of 45 grades on Puason’s hit tool, and that now looks too high. If you have him in dynasty, I’d hold right now as you won’t get much for him. Just got to cross your fingers and hope he figures it out.
Kody Hoese (3B – CLE)
This one might be the most surprising to me. A late first-round selection in 2019 on the strength of a breakout finale season at Tulane, Hoese hasn’t been able to recapture that power magic that we worked that spring when he blasted 23 home runs in 286 plate appearances. Since then, Hoese has combined for only six taters in 408 professional plate appearances. At least he still had a promising slash line in 2019 (.299/.380/.483). That hasn’t been the case this season as Hoese enters action on Tuesday with a .203/.253/.249 slash line. He’s still keeping his strikeout rate under 20% at 19.8% but Hoese’s contact skills, quality of contact, and walk rate have all taken major nosedives.
As I’ve noted in articles before, I’m a fan of Hoese’s simplistic yet explosive swing, but nothing is working for him right now. If you can buy low this offseason, I’d entertain the idea as the price is likely going to be extremely cheap due to his performance in 2021.
Other Infield Prospect Fallers
Geraldo Perdomo (SS – ARI), Dillon Dingler (C – DET), Gage Workman (3B – DET), Bryce Ball (1B – ATL), Miguel Hiraldo (SS – TOR), Alex De Jesus (SS – LAD), Brice Turang (SS- MIL), Keoni Cavaco (SS – MIN), Sherten Apostel (CI – TEX), Casey Martin (SS – PHI), Bo Naylor (C – CLE), Gabriel Rodriguez (SS/3B – CLE), Aaron Bracho (2B – CLE)
Media Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire, MLB Pipeline, MiLB
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