We’re only one week into the MLB season and many are already asking the question “When will (Insert Prospect Name Here) be up?” These are the million-dollar questions that I wish I had a concrete answer to. Instead, I’m going to discuss who my favorite hitting prospects to stash are and why they can be valuable to fantasy squads once they’re called up to the Majors.
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Prospects To Stash – Hitters
1. Jarred Kelenic, Seattle Mariners
Duh. Who else would be #1 on this list? Jarred Kelenic is the top fantasy prospect in the game (at least in my rankings) and has the soonest ETA to go along with it. If it wasn’t for a minor knee injury in camp, Kelenic might’ve broken camp with the Mariners as he was impressing whenever he was on the field, going 6/20 with two doubles and two home runs. But alas, that didn’t happen and now we have to play the painful service time waiting game here. Don’t you hate this game? I know I do. Kelenic is everything you could want in a fantasy prospect and one that I believe can make a substantial impact right away.
Jarred Kelenic, folks.
2-run homer for the @Mariners' top prospect. pic.twitter.com/jECmTcNFJn
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 3, 2021
Ever since the 2018 draft, Kelenic has shown poise and advanced abilities at the plate, well beyond his years. From a plus hit tool to plus power to plus speed, it’s all there with a rock-solid plate approach as well. Through 173 minor league games, Kelenic has slashed .290/.366/.516 with 81 extra-base hits, 29 homers, and 35 steals. It would shock the you know what out of me if he’s not up by May 1st and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him flirt with 20/20 at the MLB level this season. He needs to be stashed in every single fantasy baseball league out there.
2. Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins
You’re probably going to get tired of hearing me ramble about how important a good hit tool for prospects making their debut. But it’s so true and so damn important. Guys like Alex Kirilloff are the ones you bank on performing in their rookie seasons. Or, at least having a better chance than most. There’s no denying that Kirilloff is one of the best pure-hitting prospects in baseball. The former first-round pick has hit a robust .317 for his professional career and his “down” season in 2019 still produced a .283 average.
Longterm, this is a potential .300/25 bat that could contribute nicely in the AVG department right away with around a 20-homer pace. If it weren’t for a disappointing spring training performance (4/31), Kirilloff might’ve made the opening day roster. That obviously didn’t happen, but Kirilloff should be the first one up when Minnesota needs a regular in a corner outfield spot, first base, or DH.
3. Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
Figuring out an ETA for Wander Franco is difficult. On one hand, Franco has shown batting title upside as arguably the most advanced prospect relative to age that we’ve seen in quite some time. But this is the Rays we’re talking about who already have 39048720 bodies in that infield. However, Willy Adames or Joey Wendle aren’t going to hold the uber-talented Franco down when he’s deemed ready. Franco went 7/20 in spring training and sports a sexy .336/.405/.523 career slash line in the minors.
Your No. 1 overall prospect, Wander Franco, in action. 😱 pic.twitter.com/Kqd5OvmE0o
— MLB (@MLB) March 3, 2021
Franco’s raw power is still a bit ahead of his in-game power though, so I do question how much power he hits for initially. But still, the AVG has a chance to be a difference-maker right away and a 15-20 homer, 10-15 steal pace in 2020 shouldn’t surprise anyone either. Personally, I’m expecting the Rays bring Wander up in June or July. If he’s not stashed now (or soon), you’re going to need to have the #1 waiver or blow a massive faab wad to get him on your team.
4. Jarren Duran, Boston Red Sox
If the Boston Red Sox outfield had a name, it would be “This ain’t your grandfather’s outfield.” And by that, I mean 2019. Gone are the days of Mookie, Benny, and JBJ. Now, the Red Sox outfield consists of Alex Verdugo (solid player), Hunter Renfroe (meh), and Franchy Cordero (unproven). Those last two names aren’t cemented in stone, especially Cordero. If he struggles, that could open the door for Jarren Duran to make his MLB debut early this season.
After showcasing an above-average hit tool and plus or better speed in the minors before 2020, Duran altered his swing a bit with his hand slot which unlocked additional power and allowed him to drive the ball in the air more consistently. Adding 50-grade power to a 55-hit, 60-speed profile si a beautiful thing for fantasy purposes. For 2021, Duran’s speed alone makes him intriguing for fantasy purposes once he’s up. If Cordero struggles, stashing Duran would make a lot of sense, especially if hurting for speed.
5. Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels
On some lists, depending on what eligibility guidelines are used, Jo Adell might not count as a prospect, but he certainly fits for this article. Some of the shine has worn off Adell when his approach issues were put under the microscope at the Major league level last season, but the upside here remains quite high. High enough that Adell should be stashed in 12+ team leagues. While he might be more of a .260-.270 hitter with 10-15 steals than the .280+/20+ guy he was once projected to be, Adell’s mammoth raw power can still make him a fantasy asset. This is an easy 30-homer bat we’re talking about with 70-grade raw power that he can flex to all fields.
There’s no way to sugarcoat his atrocious surface stats last season, but his 78th percentile average exit velocity, 97th percentile max exit velocity, and 97th percentile sprint speed give a small glimpse of the immense talent Adell could become if everything clicks. There will likely be the usual rookie peaks and valleys here, especially with Adell’s approach, but the power/speed blend makes him an intriguing player to stash if you have the bench depth to do so.
6. Brandon Marsh, Los Angeles Angels
Due to the presence of Jo Adell for the last four years, Brandon Marsh has played the role of Robin to Adell’s Batman in this Angels system. But that might not be the case for much longer. Adell has the higher upside and ceiling for fantasy, but I’d argue that Marsh is safer with a fairly high upside of his own. With Marsh, the profile is similar to that of Jarren Duran but with a tad more power potential and a smidge less speed. Marsh has consistently shown an above-average hit tool and sound plate approach, posting a .288 AVG, .368 OBP, and 10.7% walk rate through 267 minor league games.
What has lagged behind is his in-game power due to a swing that is more geared for line drives into the gap. Marsh has never produced a groundball rate lower than 46% and was above 50% in 2019. If he can drive the ball in the air more consistently, Marsh could flirt with 18-20 homers at peak. For 2021, I’d only expect a 10-12 homer pace, but with a solid AVG, OBP, and a 20+ steal pace as well. Assuming he gets off to a strong start when the minor league season begins next month, Marsh should be up sometime around mid-season and could even get the call before Adell.
7. JJ Bleday, Miami Marlins
A lot of factors play into JJ Bleday’s favor here. First off, he’s an advanced collegiate bat that showed in 2020 that he was nearly MLB ready. He falls into that good hit tool and approach mold I mentioned above as well with an above-average hit tool, 10.8% walk rate in the minors, and more walks than strikeouts while at Vanderbilt. Bleday might not have the sexiest profile around, but the hit/power profile is rock-solid, giving him immediate fantasy appeal once he’s up. That might be sooner rather than later too if Corey Dickerson and/or Adam Duvall get hurt or underperform.
8. Jeter Downs, Boston Red Sox
As a Red Sox fan, the Kiké Hernandez signing felt more like a “keep the spot warm for Jeter Downs” move than anything else. One week into the season hasn’t changed my mind on that either. Hernandez has always been more of a super-utility player and isn’t a long-term potential core piece like Downs could be. For fantasy purposes, Downs’ power/speed blend from the 2nd base spot is very enticing. He’s basically Jazz Chisholm with a better hit tool and approach.
After posting a 13/37 season in 120 games back in 2018, Downs nearly posted a 25/25 season in 2019, missing the plateau by one of each. Downs has a profile that fits Fenway Park nicely and he should be fantasy relevant once Boston brings him up and plugs him in at the keystone. Those in OBP formats should covet Downs a bit more as he’s posted a .359 OBP and 11% walk rate in the minors.
9. Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City Royals
I’m sure everyone reading is slightly outraged by Bobby Witt Jr being this low on the list, but I just don’t see him up early in the season. Mid-season? Sure, it’s possible if he’s hitting well in Double-A/Triple-A, but far from a guarantee. And if the Royals fall out of contention, the “hold him down until next April” service time game comes into play. But let’s assume Witt comes up mid-season. That’s what we’re hoping for right?
Been waiting for a good view of Bobby Witt Jr.'s home run today. @Royals provided it, and good lord is it is glorious: 484 feet.
Oh, and he's only 20 years old. pic.twitter.com/wUIwIGku7t
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 8, 2021
If Witt comes up mid-season, everyone is going to want a piece of him in fantasy. So why put yourself in the middle of that FAAB/Waiver skirmish when you can stash him on your bench now. Witt possesses 30/25 upside and has really improved his overall approach at the plate over the last year and a half following the 2019 draft. That type of power/speed blend from a middle infield position doesn’t come around too often. If you could guarantee me that Witt will be up by the end of July, he’d easily be in the top-5 of this list.
10. Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants
Like with Jo Adell, Joey Bart’s Major League debut didn’t quite go according to plan. The former #2 overall pick slashed a lowly .233/.288/.320 in 111 plate appearances in 2020 and is still looking for his first Major League home run. The low average didn’t come as a major surprise, but Bart has consistently showcased easy plus power throughout college and the minors, so a goose egg in the home run column wasn’t something I expected after 111 PA.
With around an average hit tool and below-average walk rate (6.0% in MiLB), Bart likely will never be the big AVG/OBP source that Rutschman could be, but there’s 30-homer pop in Bart’s bat and that provides plenty of value from the offensively deprived catcher position. And the AVG shouldn’t be terrible either. This isn’t Tom Murphy or anything. As of now, Buster Posey is looking good, but he’s also shown that he’s not as durable as he once was when he was playing 140+ games per season from 2012 to 2017. If Posey were to go down, Bart would be on the C1 radar in fantasy leagues right away. But for now, he’s only a stash candidate in 15+ team leagues.
Honorable Mention: Trevor Larnach (OF – MIN), Heliot Ramos (OF – SFG), Drew Waters (OF – ATL), Vidal Brujan (2B – TBR), Nolan Jones (3B – CLE), Josh Lowe (OF – TBR), Michael Busch (2B – LAD), Lewin Diaz (1B – MIA), Sam Huff (C – TEX)
Media Credit: MLB Pipeline, Jeff Passan, MLB
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