Weekly Hitting Prospect Recap: Kelenic is on the Way!
Minor League Baseball is back! Man, it feels so damn good to say those words after 20 months of no minor leagues. Thanks Covid. The 2021 minor league season kicked off on May 4th and we’ve already had a ton of exciting action so far. This is the first of a weekly prospect recap series I’ll be doing this season, highlighting notable prospect’s performances from the previous week. Enjoy!
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Weekly Prospect Recap: Hitters (May 3rd to May 9th)
*All Stats through Sunday’s Games*
American League East
The top catching prospect in the land, Adley Rutschman, is off to a slow start in Double-A but this is nothing to worry about in the slightest. Give him time to settle in. Both Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg are flashing their power/speed blends so far. Both have the potential to really rise up rankings this season. Anthony Servideo isn’t doing much with the bat so far, but he’s drawn a whopping 11 walks which has his OBP sitting at .500 despite a .133 average.
The Red Sox top three hitting prospects, Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, and Jarren Duran are all striking out at high clips so far this season. Duran did sock his first homer of the season however and remains a candidate for an early-season promotion if Franchy Cordero’s struggles continue. One that has impressed so far is Gilberto Jimenez with two doubles and three stolen bases. He has the tools to rise up rankings in a big way this season.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 6, 2021
Most of the Yankees top hitting prospects are off to good starts this season with Estevan Florial and Trevor Hauver leading the way. Florial has launched four home runs thus far and Hauver six. There aren’t many hotter hitters in the minors than Hauver right now who was the Yankees 3rd round selection in the 2020 draft out of Arizona State University. There’s some solid upside with the bat here, so now is a great time to add him in leagues where 250+ prospects total are rostered.
Is it surprising to see Wander Franco off to a hot start in Triple-A? While the four strikeouts are surprising, he’s already racked up four hits, two home runs, and a steal in five games. At this point, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see him get the call to Tampa Bay by the end of June. It’s also worth noting that he’s made two starts at second base this season as well.
I’m ecstatic to see Vidal Brujan hitting for more power this season with four homers through his first 22 at-bats. While he’ll never be a 25+ homer masher, with his bat speed, barrel control, and ability to lift the ball, Brujan has the potential to settle in as a 15-homer bat annually to go with his plus hit tool and double-plus speed. He’s a fantasy monster in the making that we could see up with Tampa Bay by the all-star break.
Another Rays prospect off to a powerful start is Kevin Padlo. He’s already received a bit of time with Tampa Bay this season and should be back up once they need a corner infielder. However, his fantasy appeal is much lower than Franco and Brujan. Josh Lowe has three homers so far as well and would be an intriguing pickup for fantasy leagues.
Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans are off to relatively quiet starts at the plate, although, Martin does have a .435 OBP. Both are searching for their first homer of the season. Gabriel Moreno racked up seven hits in the six-game series against Portland including three doubles (one shown below), showing why he’s a borderline top-10 dynasty catching prospect.
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) May 6, 2021
American League Central
Outside of Owen Miller and Angel Martinez, not many Cleveland hitting prospects are off to good starts this season. Nolan Jones is striking out too much and has only one extra-base hit so far. I’m not as high on him as most are. If you’re in an AVG league, I might be looking to sell him.
Nobody needs to worry about Spencer Torkelson. I’ve been asked a ton of questions about him, but I’ll reiterate that I’m not worried in the slightest. If his spring training and early season MiLB struggles have opened up ANY sort of a buy-low window in your dynasty league, do your best to capitalize on that. Both Riley Greene and Dillon Dingler have OBPs pushing .400 through the first six days of the season. Greene is already a universal top-50 dynasty prospect, but Dingler has real breakout potential as a catcher that can hit for power with a solid average as well. Those in deeper leagues need to pick up Bryant Packard. There’s nothing flashy about him but the guy just hits.
Not surprising, but Bobby Witt Jr. needs more seasoning. The uber-prospect is off to a slow start at the plate in Double-A and isn’t MLB ready yet, even if we all want him to be. I’m not expecting a 2021 fantasy impact, if he even debuts at all. While Kyle Isbel’s MLB stint didn’t go overly well, he’s been on a tear in Triple-A and should be back up with Kansas City eventually.
With the unfortunate injury to Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach got the call to Minnesota this weekend. Injuries forced Minnesota’s hand a bit earlier than expected, but Larnach is capable of making a fantasy impact right away thanks to his plus hit tool and plus raw power. He’s a good option in 12+ team leagues.
American League West
One intriguing bit of news out of Houston is that Pedro Leon has started four of five games at shortstop thus far. The bad news is that he’s whiffing at basically everything. We knew the hit tool was a work in progress and it’s still early so no reason to panic yet. This power/speed blend looks really damn good at shortstop. It’s good to see Freudis Nova off to a good start this season. The toolsy infielder has big breakout potential in 2021 and is one to buy now in dynasty leagues.
Kyren Paris has been running wild to start the season with six steals thus far. There’s some decent breakout potential here. On the flip side, Jeremiah Jackson is racking up the strikeouts once again which was a problem for him in 2019 as well.
In Oakland, Robert Puason is struggling with his assignment so far, recording only one hit to nine strikeouts, but Tyler Soderstrom is off to a solid start. This is a potential big impact bat for fantasy purposes, even if he doesn’t stay behind the plate. Go get Soderstrom in dynasty leagues.
JARRED KELENIC IS GETTING CALLED UP THURSDAY! It’s about damn time. There was no need for Kelenic to be in Triple-A and he showed that with four multi-hit games, two homers, and two steals to start the season. It’s obvious that he needed to be up and has the tools to make a serious fantasy impact this season. Both Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte have yet to go yard but both are hitting .280 and showing off their wheels. J-Rod’s bat gets most of the attention, but he has the upside to add 10-15 steals annually as well. The first week of the season hasn’t been as kind to 2020 draftee Tyler Keenan who is currently 0/19 with 11 strikeouts.
Evan Carter getting off to a quick start is intriguing. The 2020 2nd round pick was a bit of a head-scratcher but the raw tools are here for him to fly up rankings this season with a strong performance. Luisangel Acuña already has a homer and a steal under his belt. If he starts hot this season, get ready to see his name rise in a hurry. Just remember, he doesn’t have Ronald’s power. Not even close.
National League East
Drew Waters is off to a slow start in Triple-A. You gotta wonder if the Braves eventually end up dealing him for help elsewhere as they’re loaded in the outfield. Speaking out the outfield, Michael Harris has slowed down after his torrid season opener, but the all-around potential here remains tantalizing. If he performs as expected this season, he should be a no-doubt top-100 prospect by the end of the season.
Outside of Trevor Hauver, there aren’t many hitters hotter than Jesus Sanchez right now. The tools have always been here but Sanchez has struggled to put them all together. Right now is a great time to buy him in dynasty leagues before his price likely rises back up to where it was in years past. Lewin Diaz is also off to a hot start this season with three homers in his first 26 at-bats. The powerful first baseman should rejoin Miami before the all-star break.
The Mets top-4 hitting prospects are all off to resounding starts to the 2021 minor league campaign. Francisco Alvarez is arguably the best offensive catching prospect in the minors not named Adley Rutschman and is showing why. That 9/2 BB/K ratio is pure gold. Alongside him in Low-A is Pete Crow-Armstrong who was one of the best hitters in the entire 2020 draft. He doesn’t have big-time power, but there’s the potential for a plus hit tool and plus speed here. If the power develops, he’s likely a top-25 dynasty prospect in 2022.
Luis Garcia has really slid down rankings over the last two years but is off to a strong start this season. He’s worth a speculative add in deeper leagues. The same can be said for Johan Rojas. He’s not off to a great start, but certainly has the upside to rise up rankings this season.
National League Central
Both Ed Howard and Jordan Nwogu are off to slow starts to their professional careers but Nwogu does have two steals. If the hit toopl develops, he has significant fantasy appeal.
In the Cincinnati system, Jose Garcia, Rece Hinds, and Allan Cerda have all went yard at least twice with Hinds having three so far. I’m not overly high on Garcia and Cerda is merely a deep league option, but Hinds has massive power potential and could shoot up prospect rankings if he can show that he’s not just a power-only bat.
Unfortunately, after starting the first two games with a bang, Garrett Mitchell strained a muscle behind his left knee. Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to be serious and the talented outfielder should be back soon. Corey Ray finally got his long-awaited call to the Majors this week, but I don’t foresee any fantasy impact here.
To the shock of absolutely no one, Nick Gonzales has hit the ground running in his professional debut. With an easy plus hit tool and 20/20 upside, this is a prospect to target heavily in dynasty leagues due to his combination of ceiling and floor. One level below him, Liover Peguero is flashing his power and speed early and often with two homers and four steals thus far.
It’s not surprising that the powerful Jordan Walker has already hit his first professional home run. But what is surprising is the 6/4 BB/K ratio. Contact and approach woes were Walker’s detractors during draft evaluation so this is encouraging to see.
National League West
Two of the three star outfield prospects in Arizona are off to hot starts this season. Both have six hits and a home run while Carroll is showcasing his speed as well with a trio of steals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Kristian Robinson will be debuting any time soon. But on a more positive note, Seth Beer is hitting well with a home run in his 8/18 start. He’ll likely get a chance at some point this season to help out at the Major Leaguie level.
Colton Welker has been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT). Also known as the substance that was given its name by someone smashing the keyboard for 15 seconds. It was looking like Welker might have a chance to take over at the hot corner this season, but that will have to be put on hold. The top prospect in the system, Zac Veen, is off to a cold start at the plate but is showing off surprising wheels with five steals already. Michael Toglia has already gone yard four times and recent acquisition, Elehuris Montero, is off to a hot start as well.
For the defending world champion Los Angeles Dodgers, Alex De Jesus and Michael Busch have two homers apiece in the early going. De Jesus is still a year or so away, but we could see Busch later this season.
The electric CJ Abrams is doing his usual electric things with three doubles, a homer, and two steals so far. I’m still in the mindset that he doesn’t debut until 2022, but you never know. Down in low-A, Robert Hassell III is really impressing me so far. The advanced prep bat is hitting for average, drawing walks, hitting for power, and stealing bases. People have been asking me who my next prospect crush will be after Kelenic graduates. Hassell is definitely in the running.
Marco Luciano and Hunter Bishop haven’t lit up the stat sheet yet, but Heliot Ramos sure has. The 21-year-old is off to a 9/21 start with two home runs and two steals. If he makes it up to San Francisco later this season, he could provide a spark for fantasy teams down the stretch.
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