Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Are Luis Robert, Casey Mize on the fast track to the majors?
Two of the minors' hottest performers to open the season just made the move up to Double-A, but are they among Scott White's top prospects to stash?
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The big prospect news is of course the expected arrival of Nick Senzel on Friday, and you can read .
But another Friday debut deserves at least a side glance. I'm talking about the season debut of prospect-gone-bad Tyler Beede, whose 8.22 ERA in two major-league starts last year wouldn't be so damning if he didn't also have a 6.64 ERA in 35 minor-league appearances.
He has been a different pitcher this year, though, going back to the power arsenal that made him a first-round pick (14th overall in 2014) in the first place. Some inefficiencies early in his minor-league career took him down the pitch-to-contact path with disastrous results.
In an interview with Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, Beede describes the full extent of the changes, but to summarize, he has purged the least effective pitches — a two-seamer, cutter and slider — from his arsenal to make better use of the most effective pitches, a 98 mph fastball and high-spin curveball. And through five starts at Triple-A, he has a 1.99 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Efficiency remains an issue (he has issued 10 walks in 22 2/3 innings), and because he'll likely be just a fill-in start for an injured Derek Holland, Beede isn't a high-priority pickup. But the 25-year-old is interesting enough to monitor, especially since the only pitcher in the Giants rotation who unquestionably deserves his spot is Madison Bumgarner.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Jesus Luzardo, SP, Athletics
2018 minors: 10-5, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 109 1/3 IP, 30 BB, 129 K
2019 spring: 0-0, 0.93 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9 2/3 IP, 4 BB, 15 K
Maybe at some point before he returns this summer, someone will pass Luzardo in these rankings — certainly, if we were to hear a more concrete timetable for Yordan Alvarez, he'd be a candidate. But now that Vladimir Guerrero and Nick Senzel have graduated from this list, the 21-year-old lefty looks like the top prospect to stash because there's reason to believe he'll be a part of the big-league rotation once he's back up to speed. Things were trending that way this spring, after all, before he strained his left rotator cuff. There's been no talk of a rehab assignment, but he has been throwing from 90 feet and is nearing the end of the initial six-week timetable.
Yordan Alvarez, OF, Astros
2018 minors: .293 BA (335 AB), 20 HR, 21 2B, .904 OPS, 42 BB, 92 K
2019 minors: .386 BA (83 AB), 12 HR, 8 2B, 1.390 OPS, 13 BB, 18 K
Just when Alvarez looked like he might be slowing down, he bounced back with four hits, including two doubles and a homer, Saturday, then had six hits in a doubleheader Wednesday. Complete with the stellar plate discipline, he looks like the minor-leaguer with the least still yet to prove, but a tricky roster situation might compel the Astros to stick with their Tyler White/Tony Kemp platoon for just a little bit longer. Both are out of options, so sending either down risks losing them forever. It helps that Jake Marisnick, the third member of that platoon, is a premium defender in center field.
Luis Urias, 2B, Padres
Career majors: .167 BA (72 AB), 2 HR, 1 2B, ..534 OPS, 7 BB, 21 K
2019 minors: .356 BA (59 AB), 7 HR, 2 2B, 1.280 OPS, 6 BB, 15 K
A surprise cut at the end of spring training, Urias still got a stint in the majors in April but failed to capitalize on it. He has obliterated everything thrown at him since returning to the minors, though, having delivered both a two-homer and three-homer game. It's still not clear whether he has lost what made him a top prospect in the first place, sacrificing top-notch bat-on-ball skills in an admirable attempt to elevate the ball more, but if it translates to the kind of power he has shown recently, maybe being an above-average contact hitter will be good enough. Urias had a path even before Fernando Tatis' injury, but an extra opening only helps.
Cavan Biggio, 2B, Blue Jays
2018 minors: .252 BA (449 AB), 26 HR, 20 SB, .887 OPS, 100 BB, 148 K
2019 minors: .361 BA (72 AB), 5 HR, 3 SB, 1.120 OPS, 20 BB, 16 K
Whatever holes Biggio was purported to have coming into 2019 have been nowhere to be found so far at Triple-A. Last year's fly ball boost have been accompanied by a line drive boost this year, which has him hitting for both average and power, and the plate discipline has been even better than advertised. At 24, he's already eating away at his prime years, so the Blue Jays have every incentive to call him up soon. The fact they've already started him at four different positions this year, including the outfield, should make for an easy path.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies
2018 minors: .268 BA (426 AB), 17 HR, 27 2B, .790 OPS, 31 BB, 92 K
2019 minors: .323 BA (96 AB), 6 HR, 9 2B, 1.025 OPS, 12 BB, 18 K
I've maintained confidence in Ryan McMahon's bat even as the 24-year-old has mostly floundered at the plate, but it's certainly possible I outlast the Rockies in this regard, particularly if Rodgers continues to come of age at Triple-A. The former first-round pick (third overall in 2015) has maintained a top prospect standing even with inconsistent results over the years but has found a new gear lately, batting .410 (16 for 39) with four homers, a triple and five doubles in his past 10 games. He told MLB.com he tried to do too much last year, leading to a .268 batting average and .790 OPS, but has simplified his approach this year, and his opportunity may come sooner than later if McMahon doesn't show some life.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
2018 minors: .269 BA (186 AB), 0 HR, 15 SB, .694 OPS, 12 BB, 52 K
2019 minors: .436 BA (78 AB), 8 HR, 8 SB, 1.385 OPS, 5 BB, 22 K
With apologies to Yordan Alvarez, whose position further up the ladder earns him more looks in Fantasy, Luis Robert has been the minors' best performer this year. Kudos to all the evaluators (and there were many) who stood by him even after a disastrous 2018 in which he homered, um, never. There was a thumb injury that may have played a part, and he has noted he's more comfortable now in his second year in the States. Or maybe it's pure progression, but whatever the case, those tools are playing up. Early talk of a Juan Soto-esque climb is probably unfounded, though, given that his plate discipline is vastly inferior and that the White Sox exercised extreme caution in promoting both Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada.
Casey Mize, SP, Tigers
2018 minors: 0-1, 3.95 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 13 2/3 IP, 3 BB, 14 K
2019 minors: 3-0, 0.26 ERA, 0.26 WHIP, 35 IP, 2 BB, 32 K
After making a mockery of high Class A, the first overall pick in last year's draft then threw a no-hitter in his first start at Double-A, which means Mize has allowed one hit or fewer in four of his first five starts this year. Nope, not a typo. Sure, he's striking out less than a batter per inning, but he's facing so few batters that it'd be really hard not to. All indications are he's just too advanced for minor-league play, with too deep of an arsenal and too much command of it. Still, both Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press and Chris McCosky of The Detroit News have suggested the rebuilding Tigers are feeling no pressure to hurry Mize to the big leagues, so for now, he remains outside of the top prospects to stash.
Zac Gallen, SP, Marlins
2018 minors: 8-9, 3.65 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 133 1/3 IP, 48 BB, 136 K
2019 minors: 3-0, 0.81 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 33 1/3 IP, 5 BB, 38 K
The Marlins are running out of excuses to keep the 23-year-old Gallen at Triple-A. Like Mize, every start for him this year has been like a personal challenge to see how few hits he can allow. It was two in eight innings last time, and only once in five starts has it been more than three. In terms of pure stuff, he's fairly ordinary, but a small tweak to his delivery this offseason has helped his command play up in a way that could make him a surprise contributor, especially given the park he'll be calling home. The perceived lack of ceiling and what figures to be minimal wins potential keep him from being a high-priority stash, but his day is nearing.
Josh VanMeter, SS, Reds
2018 minors: .260 BA (427 AB), 12 HR, 35 2B, .791 OPS, 51 BB, 92 K
2019 minors: .343 BA (99 AB), 11 HR, 5 2B, 1.158 OPS, 14 BB, 22 K
As prospects go, VanMeter didn't even crack the top 30 for the Reds or either Baseball America or MLB.com, so his monstrous production is one of the biggest surprises of the minor-league season so far. He credits a greater willingness to elevate the ball, saying he was more of a ground-ball hitter earlier in his career, but the jump in fly-ball rate actually came last year. Still struggling to make up for the loss of Scooter Gennett, the Reds may decide they want more offense up the middle, but it's hard to know what to expect from this mystery performer.
Kevin Cron, 3B, Diamondbacks
2018 minors: .309 BA (392 AB), 22 HR, 28 2B, .921 OPS, 36 BB, 100 K
2019 minors: .344 BA (90 AB), 11 HR, 7 2B, 1.223 OPS, 13 BB, 19 K
Seeing as he's already 26, it's reasonable to think the Diamondbacks don't have great ambitions for Cron, and as a general rule, plodding corner infielders don't get much prospect love. If the Diamondbacks are comfortable enough with Ketel Marte in center field, though, and are never able to settle on a starter at second base, perhaps there's a scenario wherein Eduardo Escobar moves there, freeing up third base for Cron. Or maybe an injury opens the door as with Christian Walker, who didn't get a fair shake until this, his age-28 season. Cron clearly has power to spare and has cut down on his strikeouts so far at Triple-A, leading to some impressive numbers.
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